Living Stars


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Living Stars
"It's a simple concept brilliantly realised and viewers may find that they've never had this much fun in a cinema before."

As distributors have become increasingly worried about people not going to see films at the cinema, the phenomenon of the event movie has emerged, the idea being to build up so much hype that everybody wants to go and see the film first, to be there together in the cinema sharing the thrill of its arrival. Most event movies are part of ongoing franchises or have subjects which have enjoyed success in other media. When they get it right, there's a particular joy to be found in group viewing, and they have a second lease of life as films to buy on DVD or digital download and watch with friends.

In independent Argentinian film Living Stars, those big budget phenomena have some serious competition.

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It doesn't get much more grassroots than this. Documentarians Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat trawled the Buenos Aires region to find 64 ordinary people who love to dance, and that's all that the film is composed of. One after another, in their gardens, their living rooms, their workplaces, their dads' garages, they strut their funky stuff. It's a simple concept brilliantly realised and viewers may find that they've never had this much fun in a cinema before.

Not everybody will like it, of course, but if you're going to hate it, you'll probably know that from the outset. Some people will approach it with caution and be surprised by how infectious it is, finding themselves having a good time before they know it. It's inclusive, too, with some elderly dancers joining the fun even though they can't stand, so nobody who can move any part of their body will be left out. An upbeat dance soundtrack sets a tone that is both joyous and absurd. A man in a black shirt, whose aftershave one can smell through the screen, swaggers along to Sexy And I Know It, and it's impossible to tell if he's being serious or not. A man in 'traditional' dress and an enormous sombrero dances to the Spice Girls' Wannabe whilst a young girl nearly splits herself laughing, curled up behind an acoustic guitar in the background.

What's going on in the background is also part of the attraction here. Viewers may be reminded of 2013's crowdsourced Scottish film We Are Northern Lights - this is a glimpse into people's intimate domestic spaces which will no doubt become a valuable time capsule, an honest portrait of ordinary Argentinian lives. We see their ornaments, their artwork, their furniture and their toys; we see people clearly just scraping by and others who have created private palaces to suit their tastes. There are also people getting on with their day to day business, watching TV, playing computer games, cleaning, welding or doing the dishes. Jack Russell terriers leap enthusiastically around the feet of a man in a cowboy suit. A black and white cat lifts its head to give its exuberant owner a withering look. As the series of videos comes to an end, a duck joins its young human friend and shakes a tail feather to It's Raining Men.

With participants of all ages, from all backgrounds, Living Stars declares boldly that everybody has it in them to have fun like this, even if they usually do so in private. In some ways more event than film, it extends an unspoken invitation to viewers to make their own such films, or simply to get up and dance in the aisles. Beautifully edited together and exactly the right length, it's an inspired piece of art that really is destined to thrill.

Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2016
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Ordinary Argentinians get on down in their homes and workplaces and reveal their love of dancing.

Director: Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat

Year: 2014

Runtime: 65 minutes

Country: Argentina

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