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A Lady Not Called Margaret, Brenda, or Margery short film review


Directed by #MatthewRawcliffe

Film review by Nathanial Eker

Interpretive dance and experimental film seem to be two mediums cut from the same cloth. Both challenge their audiences to work hard to discover their meaning. Sometimes this can be through the subversion of popular narratives, whilst others favour deeply subtextual movement and metaphor. Short experimental dance film A Lady Not Called Margaret, Brenda, or Margery attempts the latter, but ultimately neither excites or intrigues as it falls victim to its own unfocused themes that fail to deliver any kind of emotional response.

While the act of putting oneself out there so wholly is undeniably admirable; what exactly is this very short film trying to say? Some might argue that you create meaning for yourself. I'd argue back that that argument is situational; one that is sometimes accurate, but can easily be used tenuously to defend a rushed and poorly considered piece of ostentatious art without much logic.

Researching the project more deeply, the artist behind its inception cites vague notions of familial connection, grief, and death as their inspiration. This intent unfortunately does not come across in the film. Subtlety is of course key, but a film this obtuse merely alienates its audience, rather than inviting them to learn more and challenging them to think about their own lives.

As for the dancing; I'm certainly no expert, but it looked good to me.

Such a film is inherently a subjective experience, but personally, I was able to gleam no underlying thematic subtext, plot, or even a base emotion. Without reading the blurb, I would have no sense of what the artist is trying to say and I regrettably had no emotional reaction to it, bar staring in bafflement.

On a purely technical level, however, credit can be given. The different lighting and filters give each stanza a unique mise-en-scène, which is a nice touch that at least makes the film visually compelling. The use of well-known popular music is a little more questionable, but the choices are appropriate for the character that I assume they are each meant to represent. The affinity for a blend of deep and shallow focus and the subsequent obscuration of backgrounds and characters also provides some kind of hint as to what the artist wants to say about death and grief, though the film remains more confusing than compelling regardless.

A Lady Not Called Margaret, Brenda, or Margery presents a marked and admirable effort to create a tableau of emotion through filmed dance. It regrettably falls into many of the traps common to overly-obscure experimental films, and thus ultimately comes off as a little shallow and pretentious. If it was a live performance, perhaps it could've held together much more strongly, but in this medium, it unfortunately misses the mark.



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