Monday, November 09, 2009

Things currently rocking my world (or not, as the case may be)

I had the pleasure of seeing the opening night of Bangarra Dance Theatre's 20th anniversary celebration, Fire - A Retrospective at The Arts Centre on Friday night, and god, what an amazing show it was. The only other Bangarra production I've seen previously was last year's Mathinna, and it didn't especially impress me - it felt far too literal a work. But in Fire, the company's memorable and remarkable fusion of contemporary and traditional Indigenous dance traditions are beautifully and memorably showcased.

The production opens with a traditional dance from the Yirrakala Community performed by cultural consultant Kathy Balngayngu Marika and the full company ensemble, while the penultimate work is a gloriously euphoric piece from the Torres Straight Islands. Sandwiched between these pieces are a remarkable range of dances, some haunting in their beauty, others confronting in the sense of anguish they swiftly and viscerally convey. And given that this was a greatest hits package, it was a remarkably consistent and coherent affair.

Following on soon after the traditional dances which open the show, Deborah Brown is graceful and beautiful in 'Brolga', from Bangarra's 2001 work Corroboree. Thereafter we plunge into four pieces from 1995's Ochres - a groundbreaking work in its time, and still a remarkable encapsulation of the company's signature style - including the masculine power of 'Black', danced with vigour and skill by Jhuny-Boy Borja, Leonard Mickelo, Daniel Riley McKinley and Perun Bonser.

Next comes a segment exploring Indigenous social issues:, including the harrowing 'Victims' from 2001, in which four men writhe and curse under spotlights, evoking abuse and anger, rage and shame; and the poignant and hauntingly beautiful 'Blankets' from 2002.

After interval, an equally impressive and exhuberent sequence of dance works was performed, including a touching tribute to the late Russell Page, one of the major creative forces behind Bangarra in its early years, together with his brothers David (who composes the scores for much of the company's work) and Stephen, Bangarra's choreographer and Artistic Director.

Fire - A Retrospective is a stirring work: vivid, passionate, tender and angry, graceful and powerful, startling and sensual. In an already excellent year of contemporary dance works, it is a truly remarkable production, and I urge you to experience it as soon as you can.

Bangarra Dance Theatre's Fire - A Retrospective at The Arts Centre Playhouse until November 14. Bookings online or call 1300 182 183.

Paranormal Activity

I've been seeing a lot of films in the last couple of weeks - six in the last fortnight, to be exact, most of which I discussed briefly in my last blog post (I might write a more detailed review of Prime Mover later in the week, if I find time).

The most recent was a preview screening tonight of the US independent horror film Paranormal Activity, a low budget and low-fi take on the haunted house story. Much hyped, I'm sorry to say that I was very disappointed when I walked out of the cinema at the end of this evening's screening.

Directed by Oren Peli, and reputedly made for just US $15,000, the film stars Katie Featherston as Katie, a student who is the target of an increasingly active and malevolent haunting, and Micha Sloat as her affluent boyfriend Micha, who at the start of the film has splashed out on some expensive AV equipment in order to document whatever is going bump in the night in their two-story San Diego home.

While it's certainly the marketing sensation of the year, there's little that's clever or original about Paranormal Activity. Performances are weak, there's little or no internal logic and consistency to the story and its characters, and the film telegraphs its frights to a significant degree. I'll admit that the first few times spooky things started happening I was quite creeped out, but once I identified the same deep bass sound on the soundtrack each time something scary was about to happen, which serves to alert its audience to stop texting/making out and pay attention, I stopped being tense and actually started to get a bit bored.

Paranormal Activity is a ghost story for the You Tube generation. It's fun, briefly, but it's pretty dumb, as are its all-too-convincingly banal characters. See it with an audience and enjoy the screams and shrieks from the easily scared sitting near you, but don't expect too much. This is, after all, a film that gives away its allegedly 'shocking' ending in its own trailer.

Paranormal Activity opens nationally across Australia on December 3.

Rating: Two sporadically startled shrieks out of five.


Mel said...

Don't mock the "easily scared", Richard!

richardwatts said...

Whoops! No slight meant, Mel! :-)