March 11, 2020

The subject, as the title points out, is a documentary about Merce Cunningham, the revolutionary American choreographer whose decades of work changed the very nature of dance before he died a decade ago at age 90. His mid-20th century collaborations with composer John Cage (his lifelong partner) and visual artist Robert Rauschenberg were central to an era of transformation. Cunningham resisted "avant-garde" or any other label. "I don't describe it. I do it," he once said.

A believer in touring, Cunningham in the early days would cram a total of nine people, including himself and Cage, into a Volkswagen bus. Once, when they stopped in a rural outpost for gas and began to stretch, they were mistaken for comedians. “No”, Cage replied, “we’re from New York”.

A turning point for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company came in 1964, when they toured Europe for the first time. Though there were dissenters - Cunningham remembers wishing a thrown tomato was an apple because he was hungry - the response by audiences, especially in Britain, was overwhelmingly positive.

Filmmaker Alla Kovgan assembles the last generation of Cunningham dancers to present landmark works from the Cunningham repertoire. The film concentrates on the three decades from 1942 to 1972 when Cunningham was making his reputation. Gorgeously shot in 3D, Cunningham brings us closer to these works than any audience has ever been before.

“[A] visual wonder that involves from start to finish.” Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Rated: G
93 minutes
4 - 5:33 & 7 - 8:33

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