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Film

Charleston Parade

A Renoir jazz sci-fi, to a degree, makes for odd, odd viewing. A central African explorer visits 2028, and encounters a white savage, barely clad, accompanied by an expressive monkey. Seeing the strange being, the savage incapacitates him, and demonstrates the tribal dance: the Charleston. She swings frantically, swivelling her back foot as the front foot lurches up and over, and reverse, and again, and again. He takes to it, and seems to be a natural—except he doesn’t have her stamina, and leaves the planet dizzy. There’s an innate film-sense in Renoir’s continuity editing, as on a beat which goes from a slow-motion display of the dance to a step-up. Speed is crucial: Renoir slows down coverage of her dancing, suggesting that our visitor is surveying her closely, trying to suss out the dance’s rules and specificities; then Renoir speeds up, to accentuate both her mastery and his dizziness. There’s also an impressive control of distance from the camera, not showing his confused feet until he absolutely must try the dance, while showing her whole body in the frame, both to emphasise her prowess, and ogle at her. A weird concoction, that may open up on rewatch.

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