Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:33 pm 
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A version of the Henry James novella by a Dutch director who interprets it as a dance film

This film presumably relates to last year's Vineyard Theater production, unless great minds just think alike. Both are free versions of Henry James's novella about a man who thinks himself destined for some great thing, who proves more successful in business than love, and has recurrent encounters with a woman over a long span of time. The New York stage version, by director-choreographer Susan Stroman, composer John Kander and writer David Thompson had lots more characters and a richer plot. The Dutch Clara van Gool’s film is stingy with the dancing at first, and stingy with other characters throughout. From current evidence, and what reviews say, neither of these efforts was really successful.

The film is beautiful and haunting. It's also repetitious, intentionally so. The same refrains are repeated over and over. There is a circular effect. This man and this woman (Sarah Reynolds and Dane Jeremy Hurst) literally are dancing around each other - whether in turn-of-the-century clothing, dressed for WWI, or dancing the Twist. I liked seeing the pretty young gentleman and severe, dancerly woman in old-fashioned dress; the English country estate; the beautiful Italian places; the handsome cars are handsomely photographed, often in a dim, haunting light. But over time one wearies of the mixture of dialogue with dance, without the dialogue's counteracting the essential abstractness or impressionism of dance. And in the weird repetitious dialogue and inexplicable shifts of place this becomes Henry James meets Last Year at Marientbad.

Given its Dutch creative origin and its oddity, the film's s Rotterdam premiere was doubly logical. It came my way as part of the San Francisco Film Festival. Juno Films will premiere the film in New York later in 2019 and is planning a rollout to theaters across the US. Prepare yourself for aesthetic pleasure, extended a little beyond the allowable attention span. If you crave a look for an experimental use of classical dance in a beautiful film setting, this may interest you. Warning: this is more like an art piece than a conventional film. Logically, it shows at a museum.

The Beast in the Jungle, 87 mins., debuted at Rotterdam; also showed at Göteborg. Opened in the Netherlands 14 Mar. 2019.

SFFILM showtimes:
Tue, Apr 16 at 6:00 pm SFMOMA
Wed, Apr 17 at 8:45 pm Creativity Theater

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