Mr. Gaga

A film about dance that fails to capture its subject

Clever though it is, the oft-repeated canard “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” has never quite stood up to scrutiny. Anyone who can read English can tell that, say, Greil Marcus’s writing is about music, but if you aren’t conversationally literate in the language of dance, Swan Lake might as well be about architecture, or possibly the stock market.

Tomer Heymann’s documentary Mr. Gaga is for those who are fully fluent in the movement arts, following the life and career of a somewhat challenging Israeli dancer by the name of Ohad Naharin. The title comes from Naharin having developed a “dance language” called Gaga in the 1990s, and though he’s probably a very nice guy once you get to know him, he also has one of those perma-scowls that makes you think he must hate you so much.

The picture’s timeline is a bit wonky, since dance clips from throughout Naharin’s career are shown regardless of what part of his life is being covered — the 2011 Sadeh21 gets trotted out quite often — and especially frustrating is a second-act twist that reveals the story about how he got into dance, presented as truth in the first act, was entirely made up for no good reason. So what is lying about dancing like?

Mr. Gaga
Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.

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