Kubla Khan a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge first brought Xanadu into focus. The poem dealt with a mythical exotic land where a king called Kubla Khan built a stately pleasure dome close to the sacred river Alph. The poem was written in a stupor as Coleridge was supposed to be an opium addict and is said to be incomplete. However, there has been a lot of recent curiosity about whether there was/is a real Xanadu or not. An interesting quest in this regard is that of William Dalrymple who travelled from Jerusalem to Peking in search of Xanadu.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree.
-- Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Xanadu: The Imaginary Place
Published by: Tandem Library, 1999
ISBN: 1417608919

Xanadu: The Imaginary Place is a children's book put together by the Charlesbridge Publishing Staff together with John Hope Franklin. They asked a bunch of elementary school children to write and/or draw about a perfect country... anything they wanted.

Xanadu would be like chocolate. There is a rainbow up in the sky and the air smells sweet like sugar. The people in Xanadu look so pretty. Clothes are made of gold and silver silk. Coats are made of fake fur.

The book includes drawings, stories, poetry, and simple descriptions. It is marketed for children from ages 9 to 12, based on reading level, but is probably more interesting (or amusing) for adult readers. It gets most of its mileage from being cute.

The house of Charles Foster Kane, in the movie Citizen Kane. Welles did not use an actual setting but a series of matte paintings with three-dimensional miniatures. The Xanadu scenes - in particular those with Kane and his wife Susan - reveal the difference between Kane as a young man running his empire and Kane as an isolated older man (e.g., the physical distance between husband and wife at the dining table).

Surrealistic and kitschy disco musical fantasy film released in 1980, starring Olivia Newton-John as Kira, Gene Kelly as Danny, and Michael Beck as Sonny. The name for the film appears to have been taken from Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan.

Production Notes:

Directed by Robert Greenwald, a television producer turned director, whose pre-Xanadu efforts included Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers (1979), Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold (1978), and Sharon: Portrait of a Mistress.

His most notable post-Xanadu effort was the Abbie Hoffman biopic Steal this Movie (2000). Least notable: Hear No Evil, a 1993 Marlee Matlin vehicle.

Written by Richard Christian Danus (his first and last film screenplay) and Marc Rubel (who also collaborated on the forgettable Almost Summer in 1978, telescripts for Fresh Prince of Bel Airin 1986, and the Lily Tomlin-Bette Midler two-sets-of-twins-mixed-at-birth comedy Big Business in 1988).

Soundtrack by ELO and Olivia Newton-John. The film's songs include "You Made Me Love You," "All Over the World," "Fool Country," "Suddenly," "I'm Alive," "Don't Walk Away" and the hit song, "Magic." Not to mention the title track, "Xanadu". Special appearance by The Tubes.

Features an animation sequence by Don Bluth (animator for Pete's Dragon in 1977 and Titan AE in 2000).

Xanadu was based loosely on the 1947 film Down to Earth, starring Rita Hayworth as Terpsichore.

Tagline: "A Fantasy, A Musical, A Place Where Dreams Come True."

Plot Summary:

Sonny is a tortured artist who pays the bills by doing bad album art. One day, in the grip of an artistic rage, he rips up a sketch and hurls it out the window. His crumpled ball of angst is carried by the winds of fate to land on a mural depicting the Muses (all nattily clad in excellent 80s attire, of course). The touch of Sonny's cast-off album art brings the Muses to life, whereupon they frolic joyfully to "I'm Alive" by ELO, turn into perky pastel neon beams of light, and sizzle off to do some inspiring.

One of the muses (ah, Kira, the other white muse - not to be found in Hesiod's opus Theogony, so don't bother looking) stays to inspire Sonny. She plays catch-me-if-you-can with her erstwhile suitor through various missteps and machinations, managing to cross his path with an aging former Big Band clarinetist and millionaire named Danny - played by Gene Kelly - with whom he becomes friends.

Sonny eventually tracks Kira to an abandoned buiding called the Platinum Palace, where she's rollerskating around, dematerializing and reappearing while "Magic" is playing in the background. She tells him her name is Kira, and disappears. Tantalizing! Eventually Kira shows up at Sonny's workplace, takes him on various surreal and magical adventures (with musical accompaniment), and convinces him to join forces with Danny and open the greatest nightclub in the world--Xanadu.

While this boogie-woogie wonderland is under construction, Sonny falls in love with the evasive Kira, who won't reveal anything about herself except that she lives with her sisters "on the second floor." Kira realizes love between a mortal and a goddess is taboo, but falls for Sonny anyway. After she's whisked back to a strangely empty-looking Mount Olympus, Sonny goes after her and persuades her to come back to Earth one more time.

In the movie's finale, Kira appears on the opening night of Xanadu and takes on the personas of a tap-dancing 1940s pin-up girl, a mini-skirted go-go dancer, a boot-scootin' cowgirl and a princess from outer space to perform in a floorshow featuring trapeze artists, jugglers, zoot-suiters, dancing mannequins, cowboys, and rollerskating disco dancers. And Kira sings:

A place where nobody dared to go, the love that we came to know
They call it Xanadu

And now, open your eyes and see, what we have made is real
We are in Xanadu

A million lights are dancing and there you are, a shooting star
An everlasting world and you're here with me, eternally

Xanadu, Xanadu, (now we are here) in Xanadu
Xanadu, Xanadu, (now we are here) in Xanadu

Xanadu, your neon lights will shine for you, Xanadu
The love, the echoes of long ago, you needed the world to know
They are in Xanadu

The dream that came through a million years
That lived on through all the tears, it came to Xanadu

A million lights are dancing and there you are, a shooting star
An everlasting world and you're here with me, eternally

Now that I'm here, now that you're near in Xanadu
Now that I'm here, now that you're near in Xanadu, Xanadu...

Note: the final "Xanadu" is more accurately rendered "XanadOOOoooOOOOoooEEEEEeeeeee"

After 15 consecutive years in print on VHS, Xanadu was released on DVD in 1999 in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and encoded in Dolby Digital 4.0 Stereo.The soundtrack is still available and in print on CD. I just walked into a Borders and picked one up off the shelf, amazingly enough.

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