Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"Xanadu" is a mushy and limp musical fantasy, so insubstantial it keeps evaporating before our eyes. It's one of those rare movies in which every scene seems to be the final scene; it's all ends and no beginnings, right up to its actual end, which is a cheat.
There are, however, a few - a very few reasons to see "Xanadu," which I list herewith: (1) Olivia Newton-John is a great-looking woman, brimming with high spirits, (2) Gene Kelly has a few good moments, (3) the sound track includes "Magic," if you haven't heard it enough already on the radio, and (4) it's not as bad as "Can't Stop the Music."
It is pretty bad, though. And yet it begins with an inspiration that I found appealing. It gives us a young man (Michael Beck) who falls in love with the dazzling fantasy figure (Newton-John) who keeps popping up in his life. Beck works as a commercial artist, designing record album covers, and when he tries to include Olivia in one of his paintings he gets into trouble at work.
That's ok, because he's met this nice older guy (Gene Kelly) who's very rich and wants to open a nightclub like the one he had back in New York in the 1940s. Kelly used to be a sideman in the Glenn Miller Orchestra (and also in the Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey bands, having apparently missed the Miller band's fatal last flight). In a quietly charming fantasy scene, he sings a duet with his old flame, the girl singer in the old Miller band-and, lo and behold, it's Olivia Newton-John.