(director/writer: Alla Kovgan; cinematographer: Mko Malkhasyan; editor: Alla Kovgan; music: Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka);  Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Helge Albers, Ilann Girard, Alla Kovgan, Elizabeth Delude-Dix, Kelly Gilpatrick, Derrick Tseng; Magnolia Pictures; 2019-3D-Germany/France/USA-in English)

“Terrific profile of iconic American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First time feature documentary for Moscow-born filmmaker Alla Kovgan is this terrific profile of iconic American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, who died at 90 in 2009. The tribute film is in 3D, as seen at the Toronto Film Festival.

The filmmaker tells us through amazing re-enactments about the groundbreaking pioneer of American modern dance, who for over five decades specialized in inventive multi-dimensional art creations. Her hypnotic film incorporates Merce’s artistic ideas of dance as a visual experience by stating his motto was “We don’t interpret something. We present something. The interpretation is left up to the audience.” As a result the refreshing documentary allows the viewer to use their imagination to view the presentation.

The filmmaker carefully culls her favorite pieces from the artist’s celebrated opus between 1942-’72 (the first 30 years of his career), which are identified as “Summerspace” (1958) and “RainForest,” (1968). She also reworks excerpts from 14 select dances alongside Robert Swinston and Jennifer Goggans, two fixtures of Cunningham’s dance company.

Two-thirds of the dazzling film is made up of 3-D excerpts from 14 of the 180 dances that Merce created, which not only make for a beautiful watch but also act as a quick way for the uninitiated to become familiar with his work and for his devotees to revel in it. Also included are archival material from footage of tours and rehearsals, photographs, home movies, and excerpts from letters and books.

This wonderfully intimate and rich dance film is on the same high caliber of Pina (2011), Wim Wenders’ splendid film on dancer-choreographer Pina Bausch.

REVIEWED ON 1/20/2020  GRADE: A-