406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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domino harvey
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#26 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 16, 2007 2:49 pm


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oldsheperd
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#27 Post by oldsheperd » Tue Sep 11, 2007 2:40 pm

What is she like an Alvin Ailey? I'm kind of torn on whether to get this. I had an ex-girlfriend who was a ballerina and all I remember was that it was pretentious and annoying.

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Matt
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#28 Post by Matt » Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:50 pm

Pretty much all modern dance springs from Martha Graham (and from Isadora Duncan before her). Saying she is "like an Alvin Ailey" is kind of like saying D.W. Griffith is "like a Martin Scorsese" (not trying to berate you for not knowing her importance, just making an analogy). That said, yes, all modern dance is pretentious and annoying and don't let anyone tell you any different.

If you have any serious interest in dance as an art form, you will probably be interested in this. If not, you can easily skip it. Martha won't haunt you from beyond the grave.

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Tribe
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#29 Post by Tribe » Tue Sep 18, 2007 8:54 pm

Brief mention of the new Criterion release in this NY Times piece.

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colinr0380
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#30 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Sep 24, 2007 5:40 am

An enthusiastic DVD Talk review. It sounds like this set should be a good introduction for a newcomer like myself!

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#31 Post by CSM126 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:41 am

Scooped this up today. Haven't been through everything, but I will say that A Dancer's World is an amazing film. I'm no dance aficionado, but I was utterly enthralled watching the Graham troupe in action. The style and grace and discipline in what they do is amazing, and the way they work together is nothing less than art. You could take a still from any of their routines and hang it in a gallery. But of course, they are meant to be seen in motion and they are phenomenal. It's amazing what they can do with their bodies. Graham's narration is great as well. She's quite poetic when she speaks and it's fascinating to listen to her describe her views of dance, and the work required to perfect it. It's a glimpse into her mind, and the fact that you know it's only a glimpse makes you want more...but then she has to go on stage for her own performance and she leaves us hanging...Great stuff. A Dancer's World is, I think, a masterpiece and it's worth getting your hands on the set to see it.

Appalachian Spring is a great performance. Graham's choreography tells quite the story (with flashbacks and flashforwards, no less) and, again, is simply beautiful. Appalachian Spring tells a story about a 'young' couple (the husband is young, anyway. Graham took the role of the wife, and she was in her sixties at the time...) in the pioneer days of America who move to a small pioneer town complete with a fire and brimstone preacher, his passionate followers, and a much more liberal "Pioneering woman" (as the credits identify her). The Pioneering woman and the Preacher each have messages for the couple. The preacher, of course, is hellbent on delivering the "we're all horrible sinners" and "sex is a sin" messages, whereas the Pioneering woman is a bit more laid back and wants the couple to feel free to consummate the marriage. It's a bit difficult to take this all in at first (since it's a ballet there is, of course, no dialog or narration), but it sinks in as you continue to watch. The supplemental feature exploring the changes this ballet went through over the years is a valuable piece that clarifies some of the themes for those who don't get it all. I really enjoyed this film.

I am certain that I'll be giving both of these repeat viewings in the future. I look forward to going through the rest of the set as well. There certainly is an overwhelming amount of material included! Bang for your buck, indeed.

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#32 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Oct 01, 2007 2:59 pm


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zedz
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#33 Post by zedz » Wed Oct 24, 2007 9:02 pm

Somewhat disheartening to see so little comment on this release, especially as it's a reasonably bold departure from the norm for Criterion. I have to agree with CSM that the core films are excellent. Not only are they incredibly valuable records of a major artist (however late in her dancing career), but they're very satisfying as films. The dances are all about movement and space, and the framing, editing and subtle camera movements complement the actions of the dancers with great intelligence. They're in beautiful condition as well.

The supporting material on the discs is mind-boggling, with these short TV films given a depth of consideration and context few features enjoy, and all with a minimum of information overlap. We get about half an hour of recollections from the dancers involved, plus perspectives from the editors of the films (some great stuff there), from the producer of the films, and even a separate piece about the producer (which includes some mouth-watering clips from various of his 'Masterclass' productions - a future Criterion release there?), and that's not even counting the film-specific extras (the comparison of two versions of Appalachian Spring, the Copland clip). The American Masters documentary gives us the big picture, and there's more besides that I haven't even got to yet.

A really great set, similar in intent to the fine Robeson box (i.e. the definitive DVD document of a major American artist), but with much stronger constituent parts (the Robeson box really did have several sow's ears to contend with, though that's part of his story).

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#34 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Oct 24, 2007 9:29 pm

zedz wrote:Somewhat disheartening to see so little comment on this release, especially as it's a reasonably bold departure from the norm for Criterion.
Considering NAKED KISS/SHOCK CORRIDOR both share a thread and haven't broken the one page barrier (in fact I was the first to post on the thread in 2006!) we're in relatively good shape here at two pages, considering the fact that this also just came out!

:wink: f course I'm just goofin around but... they're MArtha Graham dance docs. Wrinkly old ladies in spandex rarely pull in the youngbloods in bulk!

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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#35 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:42 am

I've just been watching this, and as someone who knows absolutely nothing about modern dance and next to nothing about dance as a form in general- it's a pretty amazing set. Criterion's extras are invaluable here, particularly the visual essay comparing the two forms of Appalacian Spring, which functions both to give me a grounding in what the various gestures are meant to represent and different ways in which they may be represented. The little Cliff's Notes plot summary in the booklet helped, too.

Even without them, though, the aesthetic appeal of Graham's choreography is inescapable- to me, it seems consciously not very fluid, almost a series of extravagant poses linked together by movement rather than an art defined by movement itself, and occasionally it just seems kind of silly (particularly some of the men's solos.) But the poses they reach, especially the mixed couples' poses in A Dancer's World, feel almost expressionistic, going beyond what ought naturally to be possible into feats of inhuman grace and power.

I realize most of the comments here are essentially from an earlier iteration of the board, but I'm kind of surprised at the degree to which this release wasn't embraced- I'm really happy I own it, and it's up there with Science is Fiction for Criterions I'm likely to share with non-cinephile friends. The whole thing does feel kind of pretentious (Graham herself in A Dancer's World is almost a parody of a snooty grand dame of the arts), but there are worse things in the world than a little pretense.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#36 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:23 pm

I wasn't aware of this Criterion release until now, and I can definitely say it's not an oddball choice. This set is probably worth it for Graham's Appalachian Spring ballet alone. Not only is it one of the great American masterworks of the 20th century, this is a MAJOR collaborative effort involving three masters in different fields: Aaron Copland (arguably the greatest American composer), Graham and Isamu Noguchi.

About a year ago, I stumbled upon a clip of this piece on some random blog. It was the first 5 minutes or so and when I shared it online, people went nuts. It's such an important part of American dance, music and art, it's really a no-brainer for Criterion to reissue it.

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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#37 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:37 pm

As I said, I know nothing about modern dance, and I still responded strongly to the release- I can only imagine that people who actually know anything about anything would respond more strongly still. There's a contextualizing piece about the relationship between Copland and Graham on there, too, though it's only a few minutes, a chunk from a documentary about Copland from the 90s I think.

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zedz
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#38 Post by zedz » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:25 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:I realize most of the comments here are essentially from an earlier iteration of the board, but I'm kind of surprised at the degree to which this release wasn't embraced. . .
Unfortunately, all of this commentary was generated on the current version of the board. Nothing's been lost, it's just that most forum members aren't interested in these films. (They're probably too busy complaining about how safe and predictable Criterion's release choices are in some other thread!)

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domino harvey
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#39 Post by domino harvey » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:42 pm

It is a great set, but there's still a lot of hesitance (maybe even fear) of a set devoted solely to modern dance, so I can't say it's all that surprising that so few have weighed in. It can't help that a visible figure like Gary Tooze bizarrely used this release to show he wasn't beholden to Criterion and refused to review it! Also, responses to dance done right can be hard to express in mere words, so even fans might be at a loss other than to chime in with a rote "It's amazinggggg." I think I was one of the few to vote for it in the year-end poll, so I'm sympathetic to your praise if nothing else!

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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#40 Post by knives » Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:18 pm

I've always wondered what exactly is in this set. Is it a set of documentary films on dance, or stage footage of several dances, or instruction videos, or something entirely left field? I've only been hesitant because I have no clue what I'd be getting.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#41 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:40 pm

It's centered around three half hour films, two of which are pretty straight dance performance docs and the third is a combination of little dance pieces and narration from Graham about the nature of dance and what a dancer does. I think they're pretty well the only filmed performances of Graham's personal company with her performing, aside from just sort of silent archival pieces.

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zedz
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#42 Post by zedz » Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:44 pm

knives wrote:I've always wondered what exactly is in this set. Is it a set of documentary films on dance, or stage footage of several dances, or instruction videos, or something entirely left field?
Sort of none of the above, and sort of all of the above. The main films are filmed dances. They're film records of major works by Graham and her collaborators, but they're not straightforward documentary accounts of live performances (e.g. shot by a camera situated in the middle of the theatre stalls) but rather performances specifically staged to be filmed. However, they're not movie movies that draw upon dance, like Maya Deren's Ritual in Transfigured Time or The Very Eye of Night.

But there's also a more trad Graham documentary on there, and footage of Graham discussing and demonstrating her work. It's a very well-curated package that touches a lot of bases.

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knives
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#43 Post by knives » Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:48 pm

That sounds pretty interesting (though whatever imagine I have in my head now is probably unlike the real thing. Maybe during next sell.

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zedz
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#44 Post by zedz » Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:00 pm

If you even think you might be vaguely interested, this set is well worth it. Graham is a major figure in 20th century American art, and this release offers a crash course.

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knives
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#45 Post by knives » Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:30 pm

Holy smokes, just went to clarify things on IMDB and found out on of the titles is by Alexander Hammid. Why don't more people try to promote that?

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hearthesilence
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Re: 406 Martha Graham: Dance on Film

#46 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Apr 19, 2012 11:33 am

matrixschmatrix wrote: think they're pretty well the only filmed performances of Graham's personal company with her performing, aside from just sort of silent archival pieces.
And again, Noguchi's original set design is a huge attraction. This is the sort of thing that often gets lost to history - talked about and passed down in written accounts, but not usually seen, at least in the context of a complete performance. (Still photos would be a tease.) For example, read the NYTimes' account of Mike Nichols' current staging of Death of a Salesman on Broadway - it's a mixed reaction, but easily the most striking thing for the reviewer was the way Nichols brought back some of the original set designs of the play's first legendary run.

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Martha Graham: Dance on Film (Nathan Kroll, 1957-61)

#47 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Apr 14, 2014 6:57 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, MAY 12th AT 6:30 AM.

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

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I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.




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Re: Martha Graham: Dance on Film (Nathan Kroll, 1957-61)

#48 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Apr 28, 2014 6:29 am

Discussion open!

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domino harvey
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Re: Martha Graham: Dance on Film (Nathan Kroll, 1957-61)

#49 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 28, 2014 8:45 am

I have a background in dance and spent a lot of time with modern dancers in my college years, so if there's any general questions anyone wants to pose about these performances, I'll do my best to explain/answer/justify/&c. Not saying anyone necessarily needs such help, just offering

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Re: Martha Graham: Dance on Film (Nathan Kroll, 1957-61)

#50 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:55 am

Will dig out my copy.
What's the best way to go through this set?
Just follow the disc order? or is it best to watch any of the extras or any particular film first?

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