Chantal Akerman's 1983 film, One Day Pina Asked... (Dance Films Association screening/discussion at Gibney Dance Center, co-presented by Gibney Dance Center's Sorry I Missed Your Show, May 7), looks quite different from Wim Wenders's grand, gorgeous and better-known Pina (2011), and feels different, too. Akerman's choice of a passive but magnifying camera zoomed right in on Pina Bausch's dancers rehearsing or performing puts the viewer right into the mix. It's a dancer's-eye view. Remember the scene in Nelken (Carnations) where a pack of men crowd a lone woman, touching and increasingly manhandling her body? From a proscenium theater's potentially safe, intellectualizing distance, Bausch's imagery is already disturbing. But try it this way, and your skin will crawl. The encounter of two extraordinary artists--Akerman and Bausch--produced a documentary of rare sensitivity and power (distributed by Icarus Films).
|Novelist Maggie Shipstead|
(c) Michelle Legro
Astonish Me, a novel by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf, 2014), astonished me a bit less than I would have expected, given the raves from book critics, some of whom spun remarks off the title (derived from Serge Diaghilev's challenge to Jean Cocteau: Ètonnez-moi). And it almost lost me, early on, with its account of a bland suburban mismatch--the stay-at-home mom who fled a low-level ballet career and never got over a brush with international intrigue; the husband who desired her first, married her somehow, but still can never quite feel sure of her. But, in the nick of time, Shipstead won me back with a scene centered around a fit of inappropriate, uncontrollable and infectious laughter. That's when I threw in with this writer. Even so, I can't say that I ever came to like or feel empathy for her characters, two generations worth. I never really settled into the narrative's chronological jumble, and at no time did I think the central "secret" would surprise any character or reader. But I did enjoy and rely upon Shipstead's shrewd, finely rendered insights into the psychology of her characters and their relations. This is where she truly shines. (ISBN: 978-0-307-96290-4)