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“Cunningham” Artistic and Beautiful






Review by John Delia

A documentary on dance, it’s also an instructional piece that follows Merce Cunningham one of the leaders in the field. His techniques brought about a personal style of discipline in the art that exhibits a free form of expression. The film targets students of the art, historians, and the inquisitive. Cunningham is shown in 3D that should give audiences some excellent close-ups and exciting views of each form of dance presented.

The film opens with an amazing shot of New York City and then swooping in on a rooftop where dancers have frozen in a dance pose. What follows is a cornucopia of color, dance and music. The film covers most of Cunningham’s dance life in photos, video, and other media and culminates in an artistic ensemble.

A scene from CUNNINGHAM, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Mko Malkshasyan. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Without delving too much into the film, as I admit to knowing little about dance, and after watching the film, the words of Director Alla Kovgan tell more than I could ever describe.

In Alla Kovgan’s words: “A formalist at heart, I am drawn to the genius of Merce Cunningham––the intricacies of his mind; his approaches that he invented making his dances; and his philosophies that he followed living his life and re-defining ideas about being human.

A scene from CUNNINGHAM, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Mko Malkshasyan. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

“I am particularly moved by his story –– an incredible triumph of the human spirit. During the first 30 years of his career (Between 1942-1972), he persevered, with great determination and stamina, to make dances against all odds. He was always ready to get outside himself, to place himself in unknown situations, and find new solutions. All this took place in a unique artistic climate, during the 1950s and 1960s in New York, when Cunningham and his collaborators were “united by their poverty and ideas” and art and life had virtually no separation.

“Merce’s dances evoke a sense of timelessness—a space in between rational and irrational, intellectual and emotional, immediate and eternal––that truly “renews” us. Yet I never imagined working with his choreography on film because of the complexity of his choreographic structures and his infinite explorations in time and space.

The original Merce Cunningham Dance Company in a scene from CUNNINGHAM, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Robert Rutledge. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

“3D offers interesting opportunities as it articulates the relationship between the dancers in and to the space, awaking a kinesthetic response among the viewers. It also favors uncut choreographed shots, moving camera, and multiple layers of action in relation to the setting––everything that will allow working with Merce’s choreography on screen in new ways… Director Alla Kovgan”

Alla Kovgan, director of CUNNINGHAM, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Martin Miseré. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

The film Cunningham has not been rated by the MPAA contains no negative content and is open to all audiences. We have attached the theatrical trailer below for your convenience.

FINAL ANALYSIS: If you are into the arts and dance, this is your cup of tea. (4 out of 5 stars for production and content)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Carolyn Brown, John Cage, Ashley Chen, Brandon Collwes, Dylan Crossman, Julie Cunningham
Directed and written by: Alla Kovgan
Genre: Documentary, Biography, Dance, Music
MPAA Rating: PG for some smoking
Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.
Opening Date: January 24, 2020
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Released in: 3D, Theaters, Miami: O Cinema South Beach, Check local listings for your area

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