This is a part of the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series over at The Film Experience. Do click over there if you're haven't already. You'll have to pardon Kyle McLachlan's arse, obviously, but you've probably been trying to forgive that for years so why stop now?
It's hard to decide my favourite shot from a movie such as Showgirls, one of the greatest movies ever made and filled with a smorgasbord of possibilities. Do I choose the one that is technically the best (there are a lot, it's actually photographed quite well), the one that makes me laugh the hardest (there's a lot, it's actually one of the funniest movies ever made) or choose one half way?
I like how even when there's no reason for Verhoeven and his crew to have anything other than a darkened room with a spotlight he still goes all out and bedazzles the set with strip lighting and the brightness of Nomi Malone's (Elizabeth Berkeley) top in that second still is quite eye-catching considering what Crystal Connors (Gina Gershon) is wearing (ie; not much at all). In the top one, the way Nomi steps into the frame might make viewers actually think the filmmakers had an idea as to what they were doing it comes off as that professional!
I like how this shot not only embraces the fake Las Vegas vibe of it all - all that soft lighting to make wash away the ugliness, the fracturing personalities of Crystal and the idea behind how much work goes into such perfect show business skin tones - but does so whilst alluding to the fabulous excess of the "wire hangers" sequence from Mommie Dearest. Am I the only one whose ever picked up on this? The way Crystal has her face lathered in cream while embarrassing those beneath her just screams Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford.
The pole lick is absolutely disgusting in every conceivable way (and just what are her fingers doing? playing the clarinet?) and it makes me descend into fits of laughter every time. Showgirls never gets tackier!
This entire scene is memorable because the dance that Glenn Plummer's "James Smith" (yes, that is his character's name) does is one of the most ridiculously choreographed pieces of shit I've ever seen AND Nomi seems to have this giant talent for learning dance steps within a matter of milliseconds. I chose this shot, however, because its quite a telling moment for the film. Sums up the silly impracticality of everything these characters do, but does so through a prism of filtered light and arresting imagery (his hands on her breasts reminds me of the incredible Jungle Fever poster from 1991. It's also the scene featuring the infamous "I've got towels" line, but we won't go there today.
This shot? Well, it's like the pièce de résistance for Showgirls, isn't it? A culmination of everything that is ridiculous and absurd about it. This shot has male and female nudity (you just can't quite see hers), neon palm trees, dolphin water fountains and champagne, because nothing says excess like pouring expensive French wine over a woman's breasts in a pool under a stream of water flowing out of a dolphin statue.
My favourite shot from Showgirls, however, is this moment that comes after Nomi gets shot down hardcore by Crystal (she's gettin' too old for that "whorey look", you see). The music is completely different to anything else in the movie, you might actually be mistaken for thinking it's a lost track from the Thelma & Louise soundtrack, and it shows a more contemplative Nomi, a more serious self-reflective Nomi. You could say it's a completely different Nomi from the rest of the movie and that this scene feels more mature than the rest, what with its moody skies and restraint... of course, that is before you realise that the way this shot is framed makes it look like Nomi has a giant red neon monster emerging from her vagina!
And, let's face it, there's surely no other shot in the entirety of Showgirls that's quite as ingenious about what it wants to say about women's sexual organs, that they will devour you whole, and what it has to say about the way some people are just bursting with creative flow and that sometimes, just sometimes, this leads them to do bad things.
Showgirls, a masterpiece for the ages.
Click over to The Film Experience for more Showgirls goodies.