Watch all 12 chapters at vimeo.com.
If Les Misérables and Mamma Mia! haven’t soured the collective appetite for serious Hollywood musicals, connoisseurs of the form in its classical guise would do well to check out Jacob Krupnick’s scintillating and radical Girl Walk // All Day (2011) – a 75-minute feature hosted on Vimeo in 12 bite-sized chapters.
The reason for its free online availability is that the film is in essence an extended music promo for the album All Day by maverick remix outfit Girl Talk. Fusing bouncy indie pop with classic soul and hip-hop via an avalanche of illegally-filched samples, the album’s maudit status means that Krupnick is unable to distribute his film using the traditional delivery systems and financial channels. It was also, incidentally, entirely funded through Kickstarter. As such, it’s been the subject of a number of free screenings and ‘dance party’ events in the US, all of which have helped spread word of its joyful magnificence.
In keeping with the film’s strictly digital evolution, I was initially made aware of it via the film-oriented social networking site Letterboxd. Various US-based critics and writers waxed lyrical about what appeared to be a strange installation/film hybrid which purported to feature a teenage girl with a bob and tacky pastel shell-suit top dancing around New York City, for no other reason than the simple love of it. It opens Wizard of Oz-style in dour monochrome in an up-tight ballet school, into which stumbles Anne Marsen’s rebellious The Girl; with a swash of colour and some power chords on the soundtrack, her city-wide odyssey begins.
The Letterboxd reviews referenced Demy, Minnelli, Miyazaki, Lubitsch, the Occupy movement and the Step Up street-dance franchise – all fair markers, though their range starts to suggest the work’s genuinely sui generis nature. Krupnick offers the base material for viewers to formulate and decode any way they desire. The film could be straight celebration of dancing and the malleability and physical capacity of the human body. It could be a musical ode to post-9/11 New York. It could be an avant-garde love story whose physical mode of storytelling stems from experimental theatre or dance. Or maybe there’s something more furtively philosophical or utopian going on?
On first viewing, I was reminded of the ballet at the end of Minnelli’s An American in Paris. It’s an emotive encapsulation of a city’s social history where Marsan acts as our prancing tour guide and local buildings and monuments are momentarily transformed into vast sound stages for the purpose of public expression. But as the film continues, Marsan’s role as the film’s guide becomes more pronounced and it becomes just as interesting to monitor how the public (who clearly have no idea what she’s doing or why) stare at her with a mix of mild bewilderment and bemused awe.
Girl Walk // All Day also astonishes on a technical level, as Krupnick (acting as his own cinematographer) captures the dance numbers in long, sinuous takes which have remained intact through whatever post-production tinkering. He clearly worships his dancers, and does his utmost to retain the glorious physicality of their trade.
Krupnick is still taking donations in an attempt to legitimise the film in the eyes of the industry. DVDs can be purchased from the film’s official website, and it’s a film which can and should be enjoyed on any and all viewing formats. But for those UK viewers who would prefer to go large, it’s also playing at a special (free) event at the Glasgow Film Festival on 13 February.