A stark and revealing examination of romantic alliances, Lives of Performers examines the dilemma of a man who can’t choose between two women and makes them both suffer. Originally part of a dance performance choreographed by Rainer. Lives of Performers begins, fittingly, with a rehearsal. Cinematographer Babette Mangolte’s roving camera arcs across the bodies of dancers as they commit a pattern of movement to memory, and this image—of a work in the process of becoming—serves as an emblem of sorts for Rainer’s film, which stages a familiar story of infatuation and uncertain feeling in an unorthodox fashion. As a love triangle between a man and two women plays out as a series of tableaux against an austere backdrop, the particulars of its development are revealed largely through off-camera line readings and fragments of on-screen text.
When Yvonne Rainer made her first feature-length film in 1972, she had already influenced the world of dance and choreography for nearly a decade. From the launch of her film career Rainer has inspired audiences to think about what they see, intermingling the real and fictional, the personal and political, the concrete and abstract in imaginative, unpredictable ways. Her bold feminist sensibility and often controversial subject matter, leavened with a quirky humour, has made her, one of the most influential American avant-garde filmmaker in recent decades, with an impact as evident in London or Berlin as in New York.
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