Screening Room: ‘We Are Your Friends’

Zac Efron feels the beat (Warner Bros.)

It’s been about 40 or so years since DJ Kool Herc started spinning in the Bronx, but every few years the culture wakes up to the idea that, Hey, this DJing thing might be its own kind of creative expression. Thusly, ever so earnest films like We Are Your Friends, with Zac Efron as a striving DJ from the San Fernando Valley trying to make it in a cold, cruel world.

My review of We Are Your Friends, which opens this week, is at Film Journal.

The trailer is here; dance on:

New in Theaters: ‘Ballet 422’

Ballet 422-1

Justin Peck directs his dancers in ‘Ballet 422’ (Magnolia Pictures)

In the new documentary Ballet 422, one of New York City Ballet’s dancers is given the opportunity to choreograph the company’s 422nd original ballet. Only he also has to dance a different program the night that his ballet premieres, and he’s got just two months to pull it all together.

Ballet 422 is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

There is no such thing as a permanent piece of art. Paper yellows, paint cracks, celluloid burns, memories fade. But compared to those ephemeral forms, dance is even more transitory. The choreography can be recorded, but not the swing of limb and flair of line that exists for a moment on stage and then only for those who happen to witness it. Jody Lee Lipes’ sinuous documentary about a dancer at the New York City Ballet who’s given two months to choreograph an original ballet would seem to be an attempt to capture that fleeting sensation on film. But instead, it highlights the vast gulf between the great expanses of time given to creating an artwork and the finger-snap speed with which it can be delivered, and possibly forgotten …

Here’s the trailer:

New on DVD: ‘Pina’

pina-dvdThe 2011 dance documentary from Wim Wenders, Pina, was a refreshing new usage of the 3D format for nonfiction film. (Werner Herzog tried to use it to much less effect in Cave of Forgotten Dreams). The film is available today from Criterion Collection in DVD and Blu-ray. My full review is at AMC Movie Guide:

Joy isn’t a feeling that one associates with Wim Wenders all that much. Wonder or ennui, maybe irony, but not joy. But nevertheless that’s the first thing that springs to mind with his electric new 3D dance documentary, his first feature to get a real Stateside release since 2005’s moody, downbeat Don’t Come Knocking. There are other feelings and moods wrapped up here, tragedy and loss, but with all the sunlight (has the man ever shot a brighter film?) and sweeping movement, the joy prevails. This is filmmaking as glorious music…

You can see the trailer here:

 

New on DVD: ‘First Position’

Some months it feels like every third documentary out there is a chronicle of some kind of contest or another—call it the Survivor/Dancing with the Stars Syndrome. While certainly dramatic and pleasing to dance fans, Bess Kargman’s First Position over-indulges in that kind of competitive mindset.

My full review is at AMC Movie Database:

Like any good competition documentarian, Kargman first shows viewers her contestants and then gives an idea of the stakes involved in the run-up to the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix. The half-dozen or so young dancers that Kargman follows are the tiniest fraction of the 5,000 or so children competing around the world. Just about every one of Kargman’s stars seems to have the makings of a famous ballet dancer–the problem is that pretty much every other dancer captured by the camera seems as good or better. There’s a cliff-like ratio here in that the surplus of young talent dwarfs the precious few jobs and scholarships out there…

Final Position is being released on DVD today.

You can see the trailer here: