If I were to disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow, would anybody even notice? It’s not an uncommon question to ask of oneself in times of self-doubt or frustration with the course of life and relationships. The fragility of our existence as merely infinitesimal blips on a radar spanning millennia is a daunting prospect, and one that can make us feel hopelessly lost at times. Joyce Vincent may have felt that way when she died alone at the age of 38 in her small London apartment. It was almost three years before her decomposed body was discovered, surrounded by Christmas presents and still basking in the glow of the television set, too ravaged by the passage of time for even a cause of death to be ascertained. Who was this woman? How did she die? And why, most importantly, was it so long before anybody found her?
Simply put, 3D neither enhances nor detracts from the tribute of dance that Wim Wenders’ documentary film Pina purports to be. Despite Wenders’ own admission, 3D only somewhat conveys more electrically the late, famed works of German choreographer Philippina “Pina” Bausch (1940-2009) and their interpretations by her Tanztheater Wuppertal dancers—here, Le sacré du printemps (1975), Café Müller (1978), Vollmond (2006), and Kontakthof (1978/2000/2008). Stripped of its 3D trappings and the distracting rhetoric that accompanies the format, what remains the core of Pina is the endless creativity and beauty of the human body, nothing more and nothing less. Literally incarnating this core is, of course, Pina herself. Though absent in the flesh in the film—Pina died two days before rehearsals for the film began, much to everyone’s shock—she is very much present throughout the film. For the sublime wonder of dance is that one’s works literally live on in other people’s bodies. For this simple reason, even for those who are not familiar with Pina’s dance theatre, Pina is a lovely work of simultaneous mourning and celebration of Pina.
The tragedy of the young British playwright Andrea Dunbar didn’t end when she died of a brain hemorrhage on the floor of a pub at the age of 29. As in the tragedies of antiquity, the consequences of her actions in life carry over and shape the lives of her loved ones after her death. Clio Barnard’s remarkable documentary The Arbor begins with the story of Andrea, until her brief life is cut short and the rest of her broken family is left to pick up the pieces. Dunbar became famous in England as a self-taught prodigy from the slums of Northern England who wrote her first play (also called “The Arbor”) at 15. From there, Dunbar found a modicum of international recognition when her semi-autobiographical screenplay Rita, Sue, and Bob Too became a critical success overseas.
He is a Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese writer, living in exile in Spain, an atheist, a communist, and in his eighties. She is a Castilian journalist, a feminist, a translator, and in her fifties. They are José Saramago (1922-2010) and Pilar del Río, for whom intersecting streets are named in José’s home town of Azinhaga in Portugal. Cinematising this romantic, activist, creative intersection is Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gonçalves’ two-hour documentary film, simply titled José and Pilar, like a simple but precious box of family photographs. Accordingly, José and Pilar is an incredibly up-close and personal film that thankfully does not conform to documentary film standards or expectations. For those who want chronological s/he-grew-up-in details, look elsewhere. What you will get here instead is a sociopolitical romantic comedy-like documentary film about a husband and wife based in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
From a basketball academy in Senegal, to the high-pressure world of American prep schools, the film documents the extraordinary personal journeys of four particularly tall West African Muslim teenage boys with NBA dreams.
I can’t claim to be an impartial reviewer when it comes to the work of George Harrison. He’s first among equals as my personal favorite of the Fab Four. His tasteful mix of rockabilly, pop, and country inspired me to take up the guitar as a hobby. A framed photo from the Beatles’ early Hamburg days adorns my bedroom wall; in it, a merely teenage George, his face confidently at the microphone, stands up front while John and Paul flank him in the background, out of focus and literally overshadowed in whatever dimly lit venue they found themselves in. That seems to me a perfect image when discussing Martin Scorsese’s sprawling, defiantly hagiographic new two-part HBO portrait, Living in the Material World.
Martin Scorsese directs George Harrison: Living In The Material World, a BBC documentary based on the life of George Harrison set to release sometime in 2011.
Born and Bred is a feature-length documentary film chronicling the lives of a new generation of young boxers fighting for their place in the American boxing capital of Los Angeles.
From the filmmaker behind Cocaine Cowboys, comes the documentary Limelight, a film that explores the ecstasy-laden New York City club scene of the 1990s.
The documentary film has always been about trying to filter a larger story, whether it’s a polemical point being made by the documentarian, or a narrative regarding a person, time, or place, through the personal lens of the filmmaker. Ross McElwee just takes that conceit to its most extreme conclusion on the landmark 1986 documentary Sherman’s March.