Argentina, 65 min.
Directed by Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn
Programme: International Spectrum (Canadian Premiere)
Certainly the most unique movie screening in Hot Docs this year, Gaston Duprat and Marinano Cohn’s Living Stars takes all of five seconds to describe, but can’t really be comprehended until you see it for yourself. The premise is pure simplicity. The filmmakers showed up in a subject’s home or workplace and filmed them dancing to a favorite song. All you get for backstory is a name, profession, and neighborhood printed onscreen. The camera remains fixed to a tripod. The backdrops are carefully composed visually, but change naturally. It all stars with a middle-aged dentist kicking it to Lionel Richie with hilarious commitment and he’s so good that he returns for future cameos. In between we see everyone from secretaries and telemarketers to cashiers and judo instructors. All ages are represented and more often than not it’s the amateurs who awkwardly commit to their sweet, sweet moves with reckless abandon who get a better response than the preened, pretty, and prepared young folks who seem to be auditioning for a gig as a backup dancer.
The most amusing aspects of the film are the unexpected details and mistakes. A teenager in drag loses his wig during a Britney Spears routine, only to have his grandmother step in and replace it. Siblings roll their eyes at the dancing queens in the foreground, or join in unexpectedly with a big flourish. As a viewer, you’ll construct back stories for the dancers and giggle with delight when the trashy club hit by the likes of C+C Music Factory or The Spice Girls starts playing for a dancer who seems completely out of place. It’s a joyous little experiment primed for the YouTube era that proves to be far more amusing than it sounds. Clocking in at just over an hour, you’d think the single-concept schtick would get tiresome, but something about the subjects the filmmakers chose and the consistently eccentric ways the dance routines play out proves to be endlessly entertaining. A perfect palate cleanser to slip into your Hot Docs schedule after a series of more serious works and a guaranteed crowd pleaser for a packed audience that’s sadly unlikely to ever get a major theatrical release given all the music rights that could never possibly be cleared.