Sunday, December 23, 2012

Has Nice Beats // You Can Dance to It: GIRL WALK // ALL DAY


Girl Talk’s All Day, a whirlwind album-length mash-up, is the only sound on the soundtrack in Girl Walk // All Day, which is part silent movie, part music video, and part feature-length dance party. Any way you look at it, the film is infectiously toe-tapping. The film is a dance through New York City, a scenic tour that glides along, watching solitary dancers exuberantly, emphatically moving to the beat through crowds of real people simply going about their day. That could potentially be annoying, or like some sub-Candid Camera stunt, but instead it turns into one of the purest examples of musical joy the movies have given us in quite some time.

Director Jacob Krupnick’s camera sits back and regards the dancing as it happens, capturing full range of motion and the context of the environment. The music is pounding and hugely enjoyable, a flowing sampler of popular music from Beyoncé to E.L.O., John Lennon, Rihanna and Arcade Fire, from the Brothers Johnson and the Jackson 5 to Lady Gaga, Devo, Jay-Z, and Miley Cyrus, to name only some of the artists represented in a reported 372 danceable samples. Through lyrics beautiful, inane, and profane, the beat stays strong. As it moves along, we catch snippets of catchy hooks, bounce to some great flow, and groove to memorable melodies as they mix and match, compliment each other in new combinations. All the while, the camera moves through the city, from Chinatown to Central Park and from Wall Street to Grand Central Terminal.

There’s a loose plot of sorts that unfolds like a silent film in its broad, delightful exaggeration of expression. We’re mostly following a Girl (Anne Marsen), who bops along, dancing, wiggling and waving, sometimes eager to get passerby interested in joining her, sometimes blissfully lost in her own rhythms. In movie musicals, when one person is so full of emotion they simply must dance it out, there are often crowds of people ready to join in on the choreography. Not so here. This is dance for dance’s sake, the entirety of the city’s public spaces an impromptu stage. Luckily, the Girl is someone to watch, with a face as expressive as her dance. She’s our Chaplin, our Keaton, our Tati, a largely wordless figure to which the world must decide how to react.

There are two other dancers: the Creep (John Doyle) and the Gentleman (Daisuke Omiya). The Creep sometimes causes disruptions, but the Gentleman is a more respectful dance partner. We follow them from time to time, cutting away from the Girl. Eventually some of these characters will cross paths and exchange dances, acting out little scenarios. So there’s not much there and maybe the movie would be better off without nods towards plot, but there’s such a charming simplicity to the outsized dance-based movements that communicate so strongly through the soundtrack, that it’s hard to resist.

Along the way, sometimes the Girl is joined by new friends or receives positive nods and smiles from passerby. She’s just as often ignored. Other times she decides to take a break, like in a fun little montage in which she stops to shop. One charming moment finds her cheering up a little girl. Later, she gets caught up in a parade. Another moment finds her sad no one else will dance with her. There’s little down time here, though. She keeps moving, dancing to music that it appears only she can hear. As the movie goes on, we build to a dusk-set climax of sorts in which a larger crowd starts to join in on the dance. By the end, the effect is something that needs to be shared. At one point, in an unheard conversation recounted in subtitles, a bystander asks the girl, “Why are you dancing?” Her reply is a simple and powerful statement of purpose: “Because I’m happy.” And why shouldn’t we all try, at least every once in a while, to be so happy?

Note: As you might imagine, the music rights are what’s preventing this film from having anything approaching a more traditional release of any size. It’s screening in select venues, so if it shows up near you, I’d highly recommend checking it out. If you’re desperately curious and just can’t wait, the whole thing is streaming for free in 12 parts on girlwalkallday.com


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