1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”
It’s funny how some things happen.
I happened to be in the city of Bristol. I happened to be going to Magic Lantern, a secret-cinema-style night out, for which everyone meets at a pre-arranged location before being led to an undisclosed screening location, to watch a surprise film chosen by the organisers. I happened to have just eaten my first ever burrito (although that isn’t particularly relevant, it was just life-changingly delicious). I happened to have a bottle of fizz to consume during the screening (this is not only allowed at these events, but practically encouraged – it’s all about the funzies, see?). And after being guided to the disused floor of an office building and given a brief introduction by the host – and some humorous mishaps with starting up the projector – ‘Girl Walk // All Day’ happened.
And it happened to be one of, if not the, happiest film-watching experiences I’ve ever had.
It begins with a wonderful bait-and-switch that I admit, I totally fell for. All we’d been told about it beforehand was that it was a dance movie (with neon headbands given out to every audience member), and as the film began in lo-fi black and white in a ballerina studio, we watch our protagonist ‘The Girl’ (Anne Marsen) struggle to keep up with the routine of her classmates, and sense her growing frustration. At this point, I have to admit, I had an “Oh. Uh, OK…” moment, feeling a little disappointed after all the fun of the lead-up to be faced with what appeared to be a dour drama. I needn’t have worried. This lasted for around two minutes before the classical soundtrack suddenly burst into a crossbreed of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ and vocals from Ludacris’ ‘Move Bitch (Get Out The Way)’, the palette exploded into colour, The Girl started throwing shapes like a woman possessed, and this film jumped feet first into my heart.
OK, so technically, it’s more music video than movie. Technically, it’s as much of a showcase for mash-up DJ Girl Talk as it is the actors or director. You know what? I don’t care. This is truly a pleasure unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. We watch The Girl run out of the dance studio, and follow her as she literally dances her way across New York City in the span of a day, to the sounds of the one, long, continuous mix of the soundtrack. We watch as she encounters ‘The Gentleman’ (Dai Omiya) and ‘The Creep’ and a host of other bizarre characters who all seem as obsessed with dancing as she does. And, importantly, we see the reactions of the unwitting rest of the cast – the people of New York. Shot on the fly with what I can only assume was a single camera in most instances, faces range from confused, to feigned ignorance, to smiles and laughter, and some people even join in as The Girl goes about her mission: to be happy and dance. That’s it. That’s the movie. There’s no further narrative than what I just described, and it’s absolutely wonderful for it.
The no-budget styling and inventive camera work by director Jacob Krupnick, and the charm of the aesthetics very much reminded me of the early work of Spike Jonze and is impossible to resist – daring even. Take for example a scene in which The Girl, sporting a Hepburn-esque make-over and carrying several high-profile department store shopping bags, wanders naively into the Occupy Wall Street protest to the dismay and disgust of the protesters. I was genuinely concerned at what might happen for a moment, particularly when the non-participatory campaigners are clearly booing her, throwing things even. In a film full of ballsy (and, frankly, delightfully shameless) things, I really admired not only the bravery and gameness of the actress, but the confidence of Krupnick that it would work. There are several moments like this – the scene in which The Girl runs amok at a packed baseball stadium during a game is kind of unbelievable – but it never feels like Jackass-style clowning around. It’s much, much too sweet for that, and it’s a credit to cast and crew that they managed to pull it off.
The three leads are all fantastic (and professional dancers, duh) but special credit obviously belongs to Anne Marsen who almost singularly carries the movie on her tiny shoulders. In what is probably the most adorable female lead performance I’ve seen since Amelie, the film would absolutely fail without her. Where she could be annoying, cloying or twee, she’s instead infectiously charming, and so the film is with her. It might not be technically ‘acting’ in the traditional sense, but damn it if you don’t absolutely fall for her. She’s utterly lovely.
Equally wonderful is the aforementioned score. 29 year old mash-up artist Girl Talk (Greg Gillis) has created something here which is downright remarkable in its own right, but when set against the visuals of the film it becomes so much more. Painstakingly crafted from literally hundreds of samples (I’m not kidding; full list here http://illegal-art.net/allday/samples.html), it’s a borderline work of art. There were moments where particular cues virtually had me laughing at either their audacity, or their ingenuity (including one moment featuring Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’ that I was so delighted at, it almost had me in tears), and by combining this sonic masterpiece with the non-stop joy of Krupnick’s vision, the result is something quite unlike you’ve ever seen before.
So stop what you’re doing. Go to www.girlwalkallday.com, and watch this marvellous experience for yourself. The whole thing is up there, in chapters. Alternatively, check the site and see if there’ll be a screening near you. Whatever you do, see it on the biggest screen you can, with as many people as possible. Then head on over to http://illegal-art.net/allday/ and get your hands on the soundtrack, absolutely free. Talk about it. Support it. The film as yet it has no distribution, and deserves it entirely.
I am gaga for this film. No hyperbole. Completely head over heels. There’s not a moment of cynicism or snark in the entirety of its all-too-brief runtime, and when I was asked for a sound-bite on-camera when it finished, I said without a word of a lie, “My face hurts from smiling”. That’s all it wants to do. Make you smile.
There are three lines of dialogue in the entire film, all subtitled, when The Girl is dancing down a street behind two Hasidic Jewish men. The exchange is as follows.
“Why are you dancing?”
“I’m dancing because I am happy.”
“You should always be happy.”
It’s been four days since I saw this gem. And I absolutely still am.
This review was originally published on rustyshark.com