“Feature-length dance musicvideo” only begins to capture the delights of “Girl Walk // All Day.” Pic is duly synched to the entirety of “All Day,” the 2010 album by sampling-artist Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk. But as three fleet-footed protagonists trip the light fantastic across Manhattan, this Kickstarter-funded project quickly becomes far more than mere visual accompaniment, immediately joining the rarefied roster of great all-dance films recently boosted by “Pina.” Starting to screen at festivals in addition to miscellaneous venues, “Walk” is already viewable for free online; music-rights clearance issues render regular commercial distribution unlikely.
Opening provides a brief dose of black-and-white and live sound as a piano-accompanied ballet class is disrupted by one student (goofily expressive Anne Marsen as “the Girl”) moving to her own internal soundtrack — the beginning of Girl Talk’s exhilarating mashup of nearly 400 hip-hop, rock, R&B and pop tracks over the last 40-plus years. We’re simultaneously introduced to the suave Gentleman (Daisuke Omiya, whose primary medium is tap) and the robot-body-rocking, skeleton-costumed Creep (John Doyle). The trio’s paths occasionally cross in a city-tour adventure that’s like “On the Town” without any time wasted on plot or spoken dialogue.
Their journey wends from the Staten Island Ferry through various ‘hoods, on sidewalks, phone booths, escalators and mopeds; in a farmer’s market, a Chinatown mall, the Natural History Museum, department stores; outside a red-carpet event, on the subway, at an Occupy protest and a ballgame (where the too-boisterous Girl is escorted out by security).
The principals interact with a few guest performers, including soloists, an aerobics class and a parade of ethnic dance troupes. But mostly they move among ordinary citizens, some amused and even participatory, the vast majority being consummate New Yorkers determined to act like nothing whatsoever is going on in their vicinity.
At last dismayed by the way the public studiously ignores her “Dance With Me” sign, the Girl simply sulkily walks around, oblivious to the fact that the entire city is indeed, belatedly taking up that offer. Joyous finale is only slightly dampened by the first dullish, pat musical choice: John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which, after so much audio-collage wit and rhythmic propulsion, hits a flat note of over-familiar inspirational uplift.
Just as Gillis’ sonic mix runs the gamut from Black Sabbath to Beastie Boys, Simon & Garfunkel to Snoop Dogg, and all points in between, so the choreography (by lead performers as well as producer Sam Petersson) reps a compendium of modern styles. There’s hip-hop, modern, jazz, contact improv, voguing and even a bit of parkour and striptease.
It’s all given a terrific sense of spontaneity by Krupnick and Petersson’s fluid camerawork, as well as Krupnick’s alternately wry and rousing editing. Marsen and Doyle are also credited with “character development,” and indeed each brandishes a funny, fearless screen presence in unusual circumstances that has as much to do with acting as with dance skill.