while watching this film i discovered what it is about documentaries like this that i dislike: purist doctrines inevitably lead to failure. documentaries like this or step into liquid or better living through circuitry or rize always espouse a doctrine of inclusion and singular experience. that is, they say that surfing isn’t discriminatory or that dancing, or certain clubs at a certain time were egalitarian, but it always turns out to be untrue. they talk about the purity or the beauty of an activity (in this film it’s dancing in new york during the 1970s), but there is always some failure in the system. purist doctrines leave no room for the realities of humanity and this film is one of many that proves this point. in this film the purist doctrine is one of complete inclusion. the clubs which are a focus of this documentary were meant to be a place where everyone could be themselves and could do what they wanted. the dark side of this great idea was the drug use and unsafe sex that resulted. one interviewee remarked that it was rather sad to see 50-60 of his close friends fall victim to AIDS because they didn’t pay attention to the warnings. sad is an understatement. another example of the darkside is that there came a time when straights and gays weren’t getting along and they went so far as to have one night for gays (friday) and one night for straights (saturday); i’m not sure, but i think this was at the “garage” club (one of three clubs which were the main focus of the film).
the film raises all sorts of interesting questions if you’re willing to scratch the surface a bit. many of those interviewed talk about the beauty of being able to blend in and be part of a larger group, at the same time they reveled in the fact that they were separate from the mainstream; especially in retrospect. this same phenomenon was even more marked in rize. being outside of the mainstream is attractive, but i think that most people still want to feel as if they’re part of something.
david mancuso and larry levan were the two most popular innovators who were discussed during the film. for people in the know these were like the dj kool herc and grandmaster flash of the new york dance scene. it’s not really my kind of music, though, so hearing about them didn’t inspire me that much. on a related note, what role does the popularity of this movement have on how one should view the film? dance music is popular, but not as popular as it was 10 years ago. does that change the importance of this documentary? i can tell you that a film like scratch is more interesting to me, but is that because i like hip-hop more than dance, or is it because it’s a more relevant film because hip-hop is a more relevant genre?
the technical discussions in the film were interesting because it lent a bit more credibility to the hagiographification (?) that went on. that is, the tendency during the film was to say something like “the loft was the best place to go for a great night of partying.” or “larry levan was an innovator and just the best dj of all-time.” however, when they got into a technical discussion of mancuso’s friend getting the idea of pairing four tweeters together and adding acoustic treatment to the wood-framed loft to make the sound better, you get a more clear, objective picture of just how the loft was a better venue than the garage. the statements go from opinion to opinion based upon objective realities.
stylistically i didn’t like the framing of the picture. often times it was obnoxious and contrived in its artistry. my philosophy is: it’s a documentary – just frame it traditionally and tell a good, objective story and you’ll be fine. had a pretty good soundtrack and the music was well integrated into the storyline. if i liked the subject more it would deserve a B, but i don’t so it gets a