Saturday, June 2, 2012
Girl Walk// All Day (2011) plus a report on my talk with director Jacob Krupnick KAFFNY 2012
You will either love this film or hate it--- Me? It makes me stupidly blissfully happy.
Let me say that again: This movie makes me stupidly blissfully happy.
Girl Walk // All Day is set to All Day, the album by mash-up musician Gregg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk).
It begins in a ballet class where a young woman just isn't quite getting it. As the piano music falls away and becomes a few well known heavy metal chords (I'll leave you to find out what it is) she begins to dance. The dance is her own and it takes her out the door down the street on to the ferry to Manhattan. From there she and two men dance their way across the city.
Normally I don't like modern dance, or at best I find that a little goes a long way. However the mix of music, image and personality make this into something truly special. The dance here becomes what the best dance always is, simply a joyous expression of life. It may not be the type of dance I like, but here it's just an outward revelation of the the characters soul...its the sort of thing you might find these characters would do if they ever just burst out in dance.
While there are three dancers that we follow, there is actually a cast of thousands. Filmed on location, in what appears to be a controlled guerrilla style, this film has all of New York as co-stars. As some characters dance through the streets they pass people everywhere. They dance through stores, parks, streets and malls. They interact with people, some of whom actually dance along. Mostly everyone ignores the dancers and the cameras- which is something that only happens in New York. If this was any other city there would have been crowds, and people staring, but here there is just a wonderful disinterest that makes this seem, oddly, real.
I LOVE THIS FILM.
I can't say anything beyond that because the film ultimately puts me somewhere past words. It's a teary giddy happy place of pure joy.
Seriously, it makes me stupidly mindlessly happy. It is as pure an expression of joy as I have seen put on film.
It is also one of the best marriages of music to image as I've seen. How director Jacob Krupnick managed to do it without computer assist is as close to magic as you can get. Who needs computers? (not literally but you you know what I mean.)
If you want to feel good get to The White Box on Broome Street in Manhattan Wednesday night at 8PM for the KAFFNY screening.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Jacob Krupnick, the director of Girl Walk a few days before Memorial Day right before the film was due to screen in Moscow. I had asked the people at KAFFNY if there was anyway I could have a few questions about the film answered. They contacted Jacob who said he would rather call me since some of what I wanted answered required more detailed answers.
What was supposed to be my asking him three or four simple questions started off with my babbling on about how much I liked the film. He seemed amused. I apologized and told him that I tend to refrain from speaking with filmmakers because if I don’t like their film I either want to take them to task or, more likely, I have nothing I’d want to talk to them about. On the other end of the spectrum if I like a film, especially one I like as much as Girl Walk, I will babble out my love until I calm down and finally talk like a human being and not a fan boy.
I eventually got past being a fanboy and we had a nice conversation.
Since the call was supposed to be a couple of questions and not a full on interview I didn’t record the conversation which ended up about being 25 minutes long. What I found out really impressed me. As I said to Mr Krupnick, I know New York City, or at least pretty much every place where he filmed, and as a result I could imagine what he had to do to make the film.
What follows are the details about the filming I gleened from our conversation. You'll forgive the spotty nature of the information I was only suppose to ask a couple of quick questions. Also as I said to Jacob, I didn't want to pull the film completely part, sequence by sequence and thus completely wreck the film and it's magic by knowing all the secrets of how it was done.
The film was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Seeking to raise around four thousand dollars they managed to raise six times that amount.
Jacob wrote a rough script that stretched to 25 pages. This amazed me since the film seems so simple. I was told it had to be "long" since it had rough outline of the story, and details of each character. However while there were certain guidelines at the start, the dancers themselves tweaked and fine tuned the characters themselves to be more like they saw the person they were playing.
What happened after a certain point was improvised. Jacob knew what he wanted but because they were wandering into the wilds of New York they walked around looking for happy accidents. The film is full of them. Despite the improvisation and the accidents everything that happened pretty much followed what was intended, with the sole exception being the Yankee Stadium sequence. The sequence's outcome, our heroine being ejected from the stadium, was not planned , rather it was the most happy of accidents because it was something they could never plan, but it required a rewrite of what happened next. (The beginning, on the Staten Island Ferry, and the end, in Central Park, were not changed at all)
The film was just shot in a truly guerilla style. No permits were obtained, the cast and crew simply showed up (often in the wee hours of the morning as in the case of the fan dance) and went for it. What you saw was what happened. Because you can't shoot video in Yankee Stadium the sequence was shot using SLR digital cameras that look like still cameras.
The crew was usually Jacob with a steady cam, the dancers and another camera person. The music was played via I-pod and boom box held by whom ever was closest, usually Jacob. The volume was as loud as they could get away with- which was often not that loud. Some times nothing was used with the dancers keeping time in their heads, other times a beat box was used. Even though you wouldn't think it possible, most of the dancing on location was to the music that is heard in the finished film.
Jacob is amazed by his dancers and what they could do. The man who breaks off from the fan dancers is one of the best dancers Jacob had ever seen. He said that he didn't like that we didn't get see what he, and the other dancers could really do.
The parade sequence was shot at the Dance Parade. Jacob had seen the parade the year before shooting and thought it would be perfect oppurtunity to try and shoot a story within a real event. It took Jacob a couple of months to work with them and get them to allow him to shoot in the parade.
Jacob also let me know that the film is changing.The end of the movie is going to have a new piece of music as a closer, Rostum from Vampire Weekend's song Wood, rights to which which were just secured.
Now that the final piece of music has been added DVDs are being made of the film for eventual release.
And while I have seen the film a couple of times now, Jacob has seen the film 40 times this year alone. He told me he finds he likes to just put it on and listen to it. I can completely unserstand that, and perhaps I'll go do that now.