This one seems a bit obvious. But the American choreographer, dancer and filmmaker, Yvonne Rainer is – well, she’s Yvonne Rainer. And Hand Movie is her first film and she’s so great that obviously the obvious, such as this film, is necessary.
After making a bunch of super cool post modern ‘minimalist’ dances she then started making a bunch of super cool feminist experimental films. She was one of the ‘founders’ of Judson Dance Theater and most famous for her piece Trio A (1966). Dancers who know their stuff tend to harp on about Judson Dance Theater and you’d think no one else was moving their bodies in the world in during the sixties – but really Judson paved the way for so much stuff and so many New Things. She’s the one who started using non-dancers in choreographies and played with games and repetition, these are now natural features of dance today. Sigh – but what do you expect from the daughter of Radical San Franciscans?
Yvonne Rainer is also the author of the infamous ‘No Manifesto’ (Google it) and although epic for its time, few people truly enjoy being told ‘no’ and the wonderful thing about the Manifesto is that no one paid it too much attention, despite the fact that it received so much attention. Her last line of the manifesto is ‘NO to moving or being moved’. Is there anything more alluring than a dancer refusing to move? Is there anything more boring than a dancer refusing to move?
Hand Movie does have very little movement in it. But somehow it does move you. Perhaps not emotionally, many people may not find those twitching fingers very gripping (hehe) but what it does get you to do, is to raise your right hand in front you and move your fingers randomly, slowly, intentionally. (At least I did this). And thus! You have undoubtedly been moved.
I know many who would dub this film pretentious and unaccessible. Except it is very accessible, so accessible that you just have to lift your hand and look at it to be the star of your own film. It does not need to be regarded as meaningful or a work of genius or a break-through piece of Very Important Art. I like to see it as a pause, a patient observation at something that exists right there. There it is. The way it has been filmed, with the hand directly in front performing sweetly and simply, makes the watcher part of the Pause. It’s good to pause and just Look for a bit.
The other thing I love about this six minute film, is that it was made. It was made when Rainer was in hospital and couldn’t move her body or dance, it was made with her friend. It’s good when people make things, unceremoniously and unpreciously. Let us all Pause and Look and Make Things!