Girl Walk // All Day: SXSW Review

Singular performance film offers giddy urban dance and invites audience participation.

The free-spirited film by Jacob Krupnick is bound to have you dancing out of your seat.

AUSTIN -- A feature-length dance through the streets (and ferries, bridges and parks) of New York City, the ebullient Girl Walk // All Day treats joy and physical self-expression like acts of happy civil disobedience. Commercial prospects are complicated (more on that below), but anyone who can watch it without ever breaking into a full-toothed smile should consider medication.

Almost entirely free of sync sound, the film is set to an album-long work by Gregg Gillis, the mash-up producer known as Girl Talk. Constructed entirely of unlicensed samples from commercial records, the LP is so lawyer-baiting that Gillis gives it away free online. As a result, distributors will likely balk at Girl Walk, and filmmaker Jacob Krupnick is taking a DIY approach, so far favoring "events" over conventional theatrical bookings.

PHOTOS: SXSW's Can't-Miss Movies

It won't take much to turn a screening into a party, though: Practically every frame here is a dance scene, and lead performer Anne Marsen exhibits the kind of genre-defying, rule-ignoring enthusiasm that insists amateurs join in. (On occasion, she follows New Yorkers down sidewalks, mime-like; some are annoyed, but others play along.)

Sharing screen time with Marsen, two other performers help construct a loose, wordless narrative that sprawls from the Staten Island Ferry to Harlem. "The Gentleman" (Daisuke Omiya) is a suave soloist and quasi-romantic lead; "The Creep" (John Doyle), wearing a skeleton-patterned getup, pursues "The Girl" with herky-jerky breakdancing and a mischievousness that, despite his name, never crosses into real menace.

The film's juxtaposition of free-improv dance and mundane public space echoes the soundtrack, where contemporary rap might overlap Black Sabbath and vintage soul-pop bleeds into a disembodied but instantly recognizable rock guitar riff.

STORY: SXSW 2012: 10 Must-Hit Music Parties

If the sensory onslaught threatens to numb viewers, Krupnick finds ways to surprise us with micro-narrative set pieces and appearances by other urban dancers, many of whom the crew met on location: The Girl follows a teenaged crew of old-school break dancers across a bridge; The Gentleman gets robbed by a Parkour-employing villain; The Creep leads an impromptu workout group on a ball court. (Locations were all gleefully stolen; a scene of Marsen dashing down a barrier in Yankee Stadium and being escorted out by cops was not staged.)

By the movie's end, it seems the entire city has broken into some kind of dance, and viewers will have a hard time resisting the vibe. Even at an 11 a.m., mid-fest screening here, some viewers took to the aisles to dance along; most of the crowd stood to cheer as the credits rolled.

Venue: South By Southwest Film Festival, Special Events
Production Company: Wild Combination
Cast: Anne Marsen, John Doyle, Daisuke Omiya
Director-Screenwriter-Director of photography-Editor: Jacob Krupnick
Producers: Jacob Krupnick, Youngna Park, Sam Petersson
Music: Girl Talk
No rating, 77 minutes