Tracking Shots: This Week in Film – 5/25/2017


The Village Voice reviews most movies opening in New York. Here’s some you may have missed.

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan

Directed by Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger


Opens May 24, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and Film Forum

Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger show as much generosity of spirit to their subject, prima ballerina Wendy Whelan, as she has displayed to fellow dancers at the New York City Ballet during a storied thirty-year career. Their adoring documentary, Restless Creature, isn’t hagiography, but it does serve as a corrective to the way ballerinas are portrayed in fictional movies as being ferociously competitive. At 46, Whelan is dealing with her first major injury while facing the prospect of retirement She’s highly vulnerable — physically and emotionally — but still lets Saffire and Schlesinger follow her into the operating room and through an uncertain recovery. Whelan doesn’t fret or strategize; instead she exudes a calm certainty as she focuses on the work (through individual effort and intense collaboration). Still, Restless Creature captures the moment when she’s forced to cope with a crippling crisis of confidence. While acknowledging some missteps (such as jumping into a strenuous project too soon after surgery), Saffire and Schlesinger exhibit Whelan’s grace in dance and in life. She views ballet as a continuum, along which each dancer learns from teachers, partners, choreographers, and mentors (she worked extensively with Jerome Robbins), and then passes that knowledge on to the next generation. Never a cutthroat careerist, Whelan wasn’t intimidated by who came before and was unfazed by rising stars. She made the most of her place in the ballet world, and she was in turn appreciated for how she interacted with others as much as she was for the roles she originated. Whelan made her mark as a principal dancer with true esprit de corps. Serena Donadoni

96 Souls

Written and directed by Stanley Jacobs

Gravitas Ventures

Opens May 26

Lab accidents have created superhero characters as diverse and mighty as the Flash and the Incredible Hulk, but in this particular instance they spawn the somewhat lame power of super-smell — which then somehow later becomes the ability to see the true inner selves of deceptive humans. If you think these abilities could be used to save the world, you are vastly overestimating the budget of this movie. Researcher Jack Sutree (Grinnell Morris, of TV’s Married Without Kids) uses his newfound ability first to enhance jury screenings, and later to help out a homeless musician (Toyin Moses) whose arc so explicitly draws from Crystal Waters’s 1991 song “Gypsy Woman” (La da dee, la da da) that she actually sings the retro hit before the film is done. All the trappings of no-budget filmmaking are present here, from the too-long running time (ten minutes shy of two hours) to the spotlessly clean, off-the-rack costumes worn by amateurish actors in impeccable settings. That some of the super-visions manage to disturb regardless is arguably a testament to writer-director Stanley Jacobs, but he’d have been better off keeping this as his demo reel and showing whatever he does next to the public at large. Luke Y. Thompson

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