Contemporary Color (2016)

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CONTEMPORARY-COLOR-2What a wacky wacky world. For a start, they moved the Planetarium. I had booked to see a Fulldome Showcase – short films projected on the planetarium dome – but didn’t check the venue location. Didn’t it used to be at the State Library? Probably not. Now it’s in Spotswood. Blimey, too far to walk. Too, too far. So I booked another one based on last minute availability and venue alone and so got to see Contemporary Color, a US documentary about color guard. About what? I didn’t know what it was either.

Like Graceful Girls (MIFF 2015) which explored the very Australian dance sport of calisthenics, Contemporary Color introduces us to color guard (yes, I know, it irks me every time I leave the ‘u’ out). Not dissimilar to calisthenics, it combines dance with flag and rifle twirling, each performance based on a theme, often with elaborate costumes, makeup and props.

The documentary creatively records an event conceived by David Byrne (of Talking Heads) where 10 color guards perform to original music composed and performed live by well-known musicians. Apparently Byrne was enamoured of color guard after being approached by a team for permission to use one of his songs.

This film has won awards for cinematography and I can see why. There is some beautiful camerawork that makes the most of the colour and motion, sometimes though showing artistic detail over a long shot that may have more successfully conveyed the power of the synchronised movement.

Unlike Graceful Girls, which gave insight into the sport and the experiences of those who love it, Contemporary Color is really just a showy concert film. We see little glimpses of the individuals and one or two comments about technique but really it’s just 100 minutes of David Byrne, Nelly Furtado et al with lots of spinning flags.

Bechdel test – pass
2 stars

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