Living Stars: Sundance Review
Sundance Film Festival, New Frontier
Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat
Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat film dozens of Buenos Aires residents dancing at home.
An all-ages dance party through the kitchens, backyards and living rooms of Buenos Aires, Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat's Living Stars sets its camera on dozens of everyday Portenos and lets each do his or her thing for the duration of a single dance track. Buoyant and often funny, it will be a welcome palate-cleanser at fests; video prospects are iffier, as this one all but demands to be seen with a crowd.
The setup is straightforward: Fixed camera, mic on the floor to catch ambient footfalls and onscreen titles announcing each dancer's name, profession and neighborhood. One song segues into another without host or explanatory text.
Ensuring that viewers are onboard from the start, the filmmakers lead with their best shot: a middle-aged dentist, eyes wide with excitement, having a one-man party to Lionel Richie's "All Night Long." He's mind-blowingly great -- so much so that the directors bring him in for cameos in two later chapters, one of which finds him upstaging a young actress who looks unaccustomed to having an older man divert attention away from her.
That is one of the happy facts of this film: Though plenty of participants are great-looking youngsters dressed to impress, they're often not the ones who captivate us the most. The portly, bedazzled housewife dancing to C+C Music Factory got applause where the lithe, blonde teen did not. Similarly, those with the most polished moves sometimes pale in comparison to a tween who just lets 'er rip or the cool-looking dude (the only guest to bring his own DJ!) whose footwork occasionally runs out of steam, inspiring a momentary flash of helplessness on camera.
Mise-en-scene adds immeasurably to these encounters. Not only are we seeing people in private places with sometimes strange assortments of possessions placed just-so -- like the audience of stuffed animals watching one performance, or the sculpture in a corner of a pharaoh making out with his queen. We're also treated to deliberately nonchalant bystanders: bored brothers and sisters text on the couch while teenagers preen; Mom dyes Grandma's hair in the kitchen while an elementary school kid in a tutu incorporates a toddler into her routine. But then a mother watches apprehensively as her daughter moves seductively to "Hit Me Baby, One More Time" and unexpectedly hops up to join in -- and soon shimmies her child off onto the sidelines. Dogs with excellent senses of comic timing make crowd-pleasing appearances.
Though some older viewers will wish for a few more surprise songs sprinkled in among the contemporary dance hits, there's enough variety in the onscreen personalities to keep things interesting. And though performances run the gamut from don't-care-who's-watching to clearly self-conscious, almost every one of them makes some kind of connection. After all, each of us has been in the shoes of that awkward kid or effusive adult -- we just didn't have a camera catching us in the act.
Production Companies: Television Abierta, Cynar
Directors: Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat
Screenwriter: Andres Duprat
Producers: Margarita Garcia Robayo, Nina Hourowitz
Executive producer: Ximena Taboada
Director of photography: Roque Silles
Music: Maxi Trusso
No rating, 63 minutes