Contemporary Color Screen 83 of 12 reviews

Contemporary Color

2016

Contemporary Color Poster
  • It captures the feeling of the best of the Obama years, when, it seemed, we were all coasting along the moral arc of the universe as it bent towards justice. As indie and neo-R&B acts play their songs, composed to inspire choreography from amateurs of all races and orientations and body types, the film offers a spectacle that’s audio-visual and multimedia, interdisciplinary and intersectional, and open-minded in the evident mutual admiration across medium, genre and class.

  • With its viewer immersion, Contemporary Color opens up the possibilities of the concert film in a way that should serve as a guide to other concert filmmakers, who can use the Ross brothers' method of casual-but-comprehensive observation to do more than simply record performances for a mass audience. By offering an array of spectacle and narrative, the siblings encourage the individual to curate his or her own understanding of the evening.

  • Ultimately this kaleidoscopic concert film, brilliantly edited by Bill, about the staging of David Byrne’s gloriously odd idea to combine experimental pop music and color guard, could only be made by the Rosses.

  • The film doesn’t just show us the final performances at Barclays; it revels in the months of practice, the anticipation, the greater context. The Rosses cross-cut between the concert footage and images of the teams in their high school gyms at practice. They also stage stylized sequences of the teenagers in their own spaces, outside the gym or the stadium. The film transcends the concert or dance doc formula.

  • It captures the essence of the event in question with expert craftsmanship, and the filmmaking prowess doesn't overwhelm the show. At 100 minutes, it runs long, with the momentum rising and falling on the basis of who happens to take the stage. No amount of fancy cutaways obscure the weaker moments. But there's no doubting that Byrne — and, by extension, the Ross brothers — have delivered an entirely original blend of psychedelic experiences with a realistic window into American life.

  • It's part concert movie, part backstage doc. But its most exciting element isn't the great music or the wonderful dancing; it's the joy of the kids on these teams as they put on an emotional show in this surreally immense setting.

  • The arrangement of bodies onscreen is so striking that even when the movie's energy starts to flag in the second half, there's always something beautiful to watch or listen to. I hope the filmmakers don't take it as a knock when I say that this project would probably work just as well or better as a video installation or some kind of virtual reality experience. It's more visceral than intellectual... It's a musical performance documentary, but the film is giving a musical performance of its own.

  • As Jonathan Demme did with Stop Making Sense, the Ross brothers are intent on making a film, rather than offering literal-minded coverage of an event. This ambition isn't as straightforward as it may sound, as cinematic compositions could potentially squander our awareness of the excellence of the performances, while dutiful lensing of the dances may make for uninvolving filmmaking. The Rosses utilize a series of fades—synced with the songs—that bridge the music to the dancing.

  • Think of Contemporary Color as the Ross brothers' experimental film, with the dance routines allowing them to try out different forms of purely visual spectacle in ways that are occasionally intoxicating and inventive.

  • A documentary of [David Byrne's] unusual performance that refuses to just be a concert movie... Performances themselves are captured from a variety of angles, with much impressionistic distancing: several times, superimposed layers of a close-up of the performer over a wide shot of the auditorium, that placed over a medium-shot of the performer on stage, prove tricky and stimulating to unpack.

  • Unlike that other concert doc Byrne was involved in, Stop Making Sense, the Ross Brothers fracture the bodies on screen, and make little attempt to create a coherent sense of space or temporality. In Nelly Furtado’s performance, for example, the action is momentarily framed so that the focal point of the screen is the space between Furtado (standing on an elevated part of the stage) and the dancers (who are whirling down below her), neither fully visible, diffusing the energy of the performance.

  • Color guard routines are mini-narratives, but the “Contemporary Color” directors largely decline to follow them, nervously cutting to backstage action when a hook eludes them. When a color guard truly connects with a magnetic musical performer, or the combination of music and choreography guides the filmmakers to an impressionistic approach, the application of cinema to live performance yields exceptional results. But over all, this movie is less “you are there” than “you had to be there.”

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