Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yvonne Rainer's "Lives of Performers"

My initial impression was that this film was like watching someone read a book. The narration and dialogue all had a very stilted 'read aloud' sound to it, yet at the same time it seemed that this was intentional. I felt the first segment of the film was indeed jarring, mostly because I did not expect it and simply needed a few minutes to adjust myself to it. I will admit, I had to struggle a bit to keep my interest during these opening minutes of the dancers pacing and the odd 'Greek' sequence.

Once the segment involving the four lovers began I felt more comfortable with the film, as there was more of a narrative hook to grasp. It may have been my desire to make some sense of the film, but when this sequence began it had my full attention.

I get Rainer's sense of experimentation, especially during the segments consisting of still photographs or 'frozen' shots. The film is an interesting use of dancers in capacities other than dancing; it is a look at performance itself, and as the title suggests, the lives around it.

As to the review posted on the film's IMDb page, it's clear that the 'reviewer' is locked into one mode of thinking about film. He doesn't seem to understand the role of performance here, nor does he seem willing to think outside the box in any way, shape or form. To call "Lives of Performers" a worse movie than "Plan 9 From Outer Space" demonstrates a total lack of appreciation for experimental/art films that he claims to sometimes enjoy. "Plan 9" tried to be a standard Hollywood sci-fi flick, and failed hilariously. "Lives of Performers" is not trying to appeal to a mass audience, or even come across as a typical Hollywood film. It is instead a very experimental take on performance, and in doing that it succeeds.

I personally do not see any reasonable way to even compare the two films, nor do I think I could compare "Lives of Performers" to any other conventional narrative. Its style is its own, and deserves more consideration than the previously mentioned reviewer was willing to give it.

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