Starstruck (Gillian Armstrong / Australia, 1982):

Blonde Venus in a Sydney New Wave nightclub is just one of the limber witticisms, the heroine (Jo Kennedy) doffs her crimson kangaroo costume and reveals a flaming shock of hair and two-tone tights. The family business at the pub is a teeming matriarchy presided over by aging queen-bee Mum (Margo Lee), the spindly, 14-year-old cousin/manager/songwriter (Ross O’Donovan) reads Sexual Symbolism while washing the blue dye off his hair. ("Guitars are like phallic symbols and guitarists masturbate for a living," Kennedy snaps at her beau. "So God knows why you need me.") The bouncy punkette is practically the tomboy of Gillian Armstrong’s feature debut updated to the dawn of MTV, only here her brilliant career doesn’t take off until she gets media attention in a tightrope stunt. "Will she drop," a reporter wonders as she dangles between two buildings. "Not until I finish this interview, I’m not!" A pop-music guru (John O’May) casts her in The Wow! Show, a mad dash to save the pub and a plan to infiltrate the Opera House follow. Even before the queer-eyed "Tough" number, with its Busby Berkeley-cum-Village People kaleidoscopes in a pool of inflatable sharks, Armstrong displays her movie-musical savvy: "Temper Temper," "Body and Soul" and "I Want to Live in a House" are micro-Demy arias, the lyrics have their own flaky effervescence ("It’s the monkey in me, makes me wanna do it / The monkey in me, makes me wanna chew it"). The directorial metaphor, worn lightly, is of the female artist being asked to melodically round off her edges to suvive in the industry. Chantal Akerman would deconstruct the theme the next year in Les Années 80, Armstrong prefers to hail her beguiled heroine, last seen descending onto the show-biz spotlight on a sparkly, shooting-star cutout. With Max Cullen, Pat Evison, Dennis Miller, Norman Erskine, and The Swingers.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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