Dance Party, USA

Dance Party, USA


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Running to just 60 minutes and made on a budget of only $3,000, Aaron Katz's debut feature makes an impression that goes way beyond its size. It's a treat for fans of independent cinema: proof that you don't need a big budget or big name actors to make something special, provided you have the talent.

Katz certainly does. His naturalistic dialogue here provides an insight into a teenage world which is rarely represented in such honest terms. It was inspired in part by conversations he overheard on a train, and watching it gives the viewer the sense of overhearing something, coming into conversations in the middle, not knowing the history of the characters but quickly being drawn into their lives.

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It's not a case of automatically feeling sympathy. Gus and his friend Bill have cultivated shallowness. "If there's one thing I've learned it's not to let myself feel bad," says Bill. Gus tells him lurid stories about his sexual conquests. They always have bottles in their hands, and a girl who gets bored at a party is advised to drink more because that always makes parties seem more fun.

But unbeknown to Bill, Gus has a secret which drinking won't erase. Berated by a girl he admires one drunken night, he abruptly confesses. Reacting with a maturity way beyond her years, she refuses to allow him the consolation of easy penance by being shocked or angry. Instead she sets him on the road to confronting his past mistakes and rethinking his approach to life. It's time for Gus to start recognising other people - including girls he wants - as human beings.

Morally and emotionally complex, Dance Party, USA challenges the viewer's expectations as much as those of its young hero. It offers us the chance to identify humanity where we might not have looked for it. In essence its subject matter is pretty grim, yet it's enlivened by subtly absurdist humour. Katz is definitely one to watch.

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2008
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Dance Party, USA packshot
Confessing a secret prompts a teenager to rethink his life and his attitude to girls.
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Director: Aaron Katz

Writer: Aaron Katz

Starring: Cole Pensinger, Anna Kavan, Ryan White, Natalie Buller, Sarah Bing

Year: 2006

Runtime: 66 minutes

Country: US


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