Tuesday, January 14, 2020


That's two movies about modern dance and choreography, a subject I know remarkably little about but was drawn to because I do really like 3D movies and want to encourage theaters to play unconventional movies in 3D and continue to release them on 3D Blu-ray, even if those of us with compatible players and displays are dwindling in North America and, as far as I can tell, internationally. Stuff that used to show up in the UK and South Korea and Hong Kong in that format just doesn't any more (note to self: grab 3D Star Wars movies from the UK while you can). It's a shame that studios and exhibitors have, by and large, abandoned 3D outside of a way to add a surcharge to some tickets, because between this, the continued good work of the 3-D Film Archive, Long Day's Journey into Night, Alita: Battle Angel, and Gemini Man (and even the nifty conversion for Star Wars IX), there's been some really nifty use of the format over the past year, and it's by and large going to vanish once these films leave theaters
Hopefully this will come out on a 3D disc - and if it does, the folks who made Found Footage 3D should ask Magnolia what's up with them not getting one.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 January 2020 in Landmark Kendall Square #3 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

I wonder what sort of a minority I am in coming to see Cunningham for the 3D photography as much as the dance, and how many people who came for the dance were hoping for something a little more in-depth. It's the sort of documentary about an artist and his career that relies heavily on demonstration, and as such seems like a good introduction with an intriguing hook, albeit one whose gimmick will only be briefly available.

Filmmaker Alla Kovgan covers Merce Cunningham's career from 1942 to 1972, when he created some of his most famous pieces as a choreographer and dancer, often in collaboration with composer John Cage and designer Robert Rauschenberg. Rather than simply presenting period footage of varying quality, they often recreate the performances, sometimes on a stage and sometimes on location. More context is given with archival interviews, not necessarily contemporaneous with the black-and-white photos and footage shown. It's a clear demarcation - the vital material is in vivid, colorful motion, while the rest is supplementary, filling in the gaps.

Letting the dance and Cunningham's own words speak for themselves is a nifty choice, although I suspect that it doesn't present a whole lot of new information or special insight for those who already know something about dance in general and Cunningham in particular. What Kovgan chooses to include as writer/director/editor makes for an intriguing lesson plan, providing just enough information for even us laymen to start to examine the dance ourselves. From the very start, she's redirecting how viewers think of dance by including comments from Cunningham about divorcing the movements from storytelling and music, focusing on the technical more than the biographical. There is some of that, certainly, but as asides and jumping-off points. For better or worse, Kovgan builds the film around Cunningham's position that his dance is almost entirely about movement.

Full review on eFilmCritic

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