A ravishing look at the Indian classical dance form Mohini Attam, “The Dance of the Enchantress” neither explains nor interprets, satisfied to passively watch as teachers and students train and perform in and around palaces and temples of Kerala. Helmed by leading Indian arthouse director Adoor Gopalakrishnan (“Face to Face”), with dance historian Brigitte Chataignier credited as associate director, docu’s lyrical beauty could help it transcend dance fest showcasing, though the rarified subject and presentation will limit even arthouse play.
One of the singular aspects of Mohini Attam is the importance of facial expressions to further convey the interpreted stories; scenes of students practicing rapid changes in mood and emotion have an almost comic air until performances make it all understandable. Docu incorporates not just dance sequences but occasional shots of the students’ lives, counterpointing the sense of tranquility in school with societal pressures outside. Images are stunning, from in-school training exercises to full-blown presentations in historic locations; Gopalakrishnan carefully picks out the richness of each color, from the white and gold of pleated saris to intense hues made even stronger by perfect lighting. Sound is tops.