Sunday, February 24, 2008

How She Move (2007)

So back in January David Bordwell posted a representatively long piece about the pleasures of Cloverfield, which I've yet to catch up with. The opening to his piece talks about the supposed dead zone of the first quarter of the Hollywood release schedule. It's the area where the genre experiments - the low-budget actioners and teen dance romps - hit theaters and get smacked down by lazy critics still suckling the teat of the Oscar race. As Bordwell notes, these are the B-movies of our time, low budget flicks that usually turn a profit - and with low budgets generally comes more freedom, which led to all the glorious Golden Age of Hollywood work.

Bordwell's piece focuses on the actioners, but another dependable genre trotted out in the early months is the teen dance movie. Last year's Stomp the Yard came out in January, and was an enjoyable piece of genre machinery, with flashy dance moves and charismatic character perfs, especially by R&B singer Ne-Yo. There are two entrants this year, the glossy Step Up 2 (as yet unseen by me), and the grittier How She Move, directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid. Gritty in that it looks cheap. An all-Canadian production that premiered at Sundance '07 (with some MTV Films cash involved), it shoots in the inner city of Toronto, focusing on the Jamaican community's underground step-team scene. Shot in washed out colors, and even utlizing 16mm for some shots, it has a young, seemingly unprofessional cast and an endless amount of enthusiasm. What really sticks out here is the film's sense of place, almost as precise as the industrial Toronto landscapes of In Between Days. The motivating force behind the film seems to be screenwriter Annemarie Morais, herself a daughter of Jamaican immigrants, and who had already directed a short documentary, Steppin' To It, which followed the preparations of co-ed step teams before a big competition. Rashid's direction is refreshingly restrained for the genre, allowing the big dance numbers to unfold coherently, with a minimum of edits and digital manipulation. But Morais is the clear talent here, establishing the rhythms of a community within the rules of genre, while saving room for the genre kicks too, including a window busting step competition climax.



Blogger Jesse said...

I'm all about good genre stuff coming out in Q1, but as someone who sees a lot of these movies I would have to add that a lot of them are disappointing even within their modest goals and calling them "experimental" would usually be a stretch, and further, as a Statham fan, I should note that his movies are rarely released in January/February; usually the similar late-August-early-September corridor instead (that Dungeon Siege movie was more exception than the rule).

Oh, also, Step Up 2 is way better than the first one.

10:02 AM  
Blogger R. Emmet Sweeney said...

You're right about the Statham movies, I just saw Crank and thought it was fabulous so I wanted to shoehorn his name in somehow. I'll take his name out.

And good to know about Step Up, I'll probably try to catch up with both on video.

And I didn't call them experimental, I said that they have more freedom within the limits of their genre codes. Which isn't to say there isn't a lot of crap, but that they should still be taken seriously.

10:31 AM  

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