Desperately Seeking Susan and four more films where Madonna plays Madonna
Madonna's character Susan, who is seemingly modeled after Madonna.
When Desperately Seeking Susan arrived in theaters in 1985, Madonna was already a star. In the movie, she played Susan -- who unknowingly trades places with co-star Rosanna Arquette's Roberta, a bored housewife -- and that character seemed uncannily similar to the real-life Madonna, only in widescreen format.
Over the course of three decades, Madonna has made a career out of reinventing what it means to be Madonna, and her work in film is no exception. In honor of this weekend's Watching Hour screening of Desperately Seeking Susan at the Sie FilmCenter, here are five movies where Madonna gets meta and plays herself.
(Note: For hardcore Watching Hour fans, this is the last screening hosted by former FilmCenter programming director Keith Garcia before he heads to his new position at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Garcia handpicked Desperately Seeking Susan as his exit showing and to honor Madge's 55th birthday this Friday.)
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
The original Madonna-does-Madonna movie, Desperately Seeking Susan sees the pop star playing a New York vamp whose party -ife exploits become the envy of suburbanite wife and maid Roberta. (Arquette's darling performance as Roberta could have been considered the main character of the film, but was eclipsed by Madonna's undeniable popculture relevance.)
Of the scene above -- where Madonna's Susan meets her doppelganger's husband at a club in an effort to track down the lost woman -- Garcia notes: "This scene is delicious in its own self-awareness of the star (Madonna) that they got to play herself, playing herself as someone else while helping to find someone who is playing her, all while they dance to the soon to be iconic song by the star just playing herself."
Dick Tracy (1990)
In this brilliantly color-saturated '90s adaptation of the vintage comic, Madonna's Breathless Mahoney character very much carried on the look and feel of her real life "Express Yourself"-era persona. Her blonde curls may have been pumped up for the film version, but the Mahoney look and movements were all Madonna.
Further embedding herself in (and virtually making her out-of-character persona indistinguishable from) the cartoon-inspired character, Madonna released I'm Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy, which included "Vogue" -- possibly her most iconic video of all time.
Who's That Girl (1987)
"She's beautiful. She's impulsive. She's Madonna," claims the voiceover on the trailer for Who's That Girl. But she's not Madonna -- she's Nikki Finn, a sassy girl wrongly accused of a crime. Though the character is an outright send-up of Marilyn Monroe (Who's That Girl's movie-poster image of Madonna serves not only as a tribute to Monroe but highlights the mediocre movie's only redeeming quality -- Madonna), Madonna is playing a watered-down and sexed-up version of her pop star self.
Just as Desperately Seeking Susan served as a vehicle for Madonna's single "Into The Groove," Who's That Girl did the same for "Causing a Commotion," among other songs on the soundtrack by the singer.
Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991)
Though presented in the context of a documentary, Madonna: Truth or Dare continues to spin the tale that is the enigma that is Madonna. As if to cross from film to real life to film again, Madonna's then-boyfriend, Warren Beatty (her love interest in Dick Tracy), is just as much of a strange being orbiting the pop star as the make-up artists, dancers and industry types she pseudo-interacts with. Everything from Madonna's mouth feels scripted to shock -- and it works.
Four Rooms (1995)
It's not a stretch of the imagination to think that Madonna's portrayal of Elspeth in Four Rooms was fairly close to what she might be the most like in real life -- bossy, cool and untouchable but inviting. This segment of the movie mini-anthology's plot revolves around sex, innuendo, spells and Hollywood-portrayed witchcraft -- which sounds a lot like many other creative endeavors from the pop star's lengthy career.
Desperately Seeking Susan screens at 10 p.m. this Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17 at the Sie FilmCenter; tickets are $6 to $8 and can be purchased at the box office or online. For more information, visit the FilmCenter's website or call 303-595-3456.
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