Ma Screen 10 articles



Ma Poster
  • The movie has had its subtext dragged kicking and screaming to the surface by the writer-director, so that every shot plays like an ultra-conscious contribution to a greater overall theme, only without the social or political severity such an approach might entail. It's akin to the religion-focused works of Pier Paolo Pasolini if they were stripped of historical specificity and clear-headed allegory.

  • Rowlson-Hall was trained as a choreographer, and Ma is her attempt to make something roughly midway between dance and cinema, featuring no spoken dialogue whatsoever. (Someone sings “Amazing Grace”; that’s it for words.) The result is decidedly uneven, but the film’s sheer creative ambition is invigorating.

  • The film never plays like a guessing game — Rowlson-Hall breaths it with enough air and patience to let it float toward its climax — but it’s clear from one of its earliest images that this is a very loose retelling of a widely circulated tale.

  • Curious, engaging, harrowing, sometimes infuriating, and sometimes borderline ridiculous (and I think a good number of people might be inclined, alas, to remove that “borderline”) “Ma,” despite having its Lynchian moments, seems to invent its own categories as it moves along to Vegas. That sounds bad, I know, but the Vegas here is rather different from the one you and I know. Hall’s talent and gumption are utterly undeniable.

  • The true strength of Ma, which premiered at Venice in 2015, has nothing to do with its vaguely outré “take” on biblical legend, much less its talk-free format; rather, it’s the images’ particular synthesis of simplicity, sadness, and surreality that most distinguishes the movie... Without resorting once to words, Rowlson-Hall develops a cinematic language well suited to exploring the concept of immaculacy—and how external demands for it can weary the body indeed.

  • Part movie, part dance performance, part bizarre Nativity play, “MA” is the kind of picture that rarely sees the outside — or even the main stage — of a film festival. With virtually no dialogue and precious little recognizable narrative, this surreal take on the Virgin Mary’s pilgrimage (with the American Southwest standing in for the Holy Land) is intermittently lovely and consistently confounding.

  • The idea of silence as a tool of resistance should not be overstated. But a silence like Rowland-Hall’s, a _silence that speaks_, shows us how the body can articulate the material realities, the tactile and affective maternal experiences, that language might only approximate. Ma is a complex artwork that engages with movement and space to suggest a cinematic form of body-talk, a language of resistant gesture and queer-feminist transformation.

  • MA is everything the bigger Venice debuts are not. Take Black Mass. The women in Cooper’s mundane gangster story are given about just as much dialogue as the characters in Rowlson-Hall’s wordless dance film. But unlike what we see in Black Mass, Rowlson-Hall doesn’t rely on dialogue as a tool to reward or strip a character of a voice. What the former ballet dancer and acclaimed choreographer expresses most powerfully in MA isn’t watered down with words.

  • It falls into all the traps you can probably imagine just from hearing the description. It takes itself very seriously. When it tries to lighten the mood, it feels false. It's what some people might call "self-indulgent." But I wish that more artists would indulge themselves, their passions, obsessions, questions. Through "indulging," you get unique and challenging art told from a personal point of view.

  • Rowlson-Hall trained as a dancer, and her film’s best scenes, original and full of verve, are of Ma and Daniel improvising in a motel room; now they’re animals, now they’re sailing in linens, now they’re airborne; now they’re themselves. The Vegas ending is overwhelmed by a Holy Mountain-style symbolic onslaught, and one misses Daniel, who has reprised his own journey: not because Ma needs a man but because she needs a friend, and not of the soul but of the body, which speaks eloquently.

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