Last week Hanna B began her list of the 20 Best Parties and Gatherings of the last decade in cinema. In part 1, she focused on “the most beautiful, exhilarating, enviable, fun recent onscreen parties that will make you want to bust a move.” In Part 2, she focuses on dance parties.
Here’s to another director who knows how to start a flick with a bang and film “emotions.” Climax is a 2018 psychological horror movie full of passionate choreographies and hallucinations directed by Gaspar Noé of Enter The Void fame. So you can say he’s a guy who sure knows how to shoot a bacchanal! This huis-clos film unfolds during a night fiesta turn nightmare and is inspired by a real event. It is ultimately a thriller about a troupe of dancers bad tripping after having their drinks spiked. With its epic opening sequence, festive mood, and French flair, Climax is a fantastic “party movie” despite not ultimately being fun.
Black Is King
This musical by Beyoncé, aided by various filmmakers (including Blitz Bazawule of the awe-inspiring The Burial Of Kojo), is an eye-popping delight taking viewers all over Africa where African actors and artists retell the story of The Lion King. In essence, it is a visual album where videos for the singer’s tie-in to The Lion King remake are glued together, acting as vignettes celebrating Black culture and identity. This love letter to Africa and the diaspora filled with gorgeous sceneries, transporting music, poesy, elaborated dance routines, traditional costumes, and Afrofuturism is also one of many soirees. From dance-offs and tea parties to balls and jamborees with superstars, this 2020 groundbreaking movie is a sensation.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s oscar-nominated 2018 black comedy is one of many indulgences and scenes looking like someone said, “Marie Antoinette parties but make it laughably weird and (even more!) anachronistic.” The Favourite, about a speculative account of what was happening at Queen Anne’s court, is a riot that had viewers floored at the multitudes of comical situations. In addition, it looks luscious, even when it grosses us out, and is a highly entertaining motion picture with one extravagant and bizarre dance routine (using anachronism to maximum effect!)
This 2013 film by Chadian filmmaker Mahamat Saleh Haroun is the story of Grisgris, who, despite a paralyzed leg, decides to become a dancer in nightclubs. On top of his physical condition, which he manages awesomely, life is not easy for our protagonist, so nights of fun alternate with dangerous ones. Grigris lead, Souleymane Démé, is, in fact, a mind-blowing dancer just like his character. Talk about finding opportunities and making them! Sure the movie is more of a tale of survival and revenge, but it shows viewers that parties, like Cinema, should be inclusive as it opens the door to amazing new narratives and great times.
Although Ema is about dancers dancing, it is also one where people are often having a good social time with training sessions and dance-offs turning into parties. Pablo Larrain’s latest might be one of the most interesting and must-see films released in 2020. Ema is a sight to behold with its entrancing direction, bewitching cinematography, and a tailor-made soundtrack that will make you run want to keep the party going! Even more appreciable is how by having its plot pitting classical jazz dancers versus Latin street music/reggaeton, Larrain is also putting the latter front and center and give us something fresh (like I’m No Longer Here sort of did with Cumbia).
This 2018 documentary puts a smile on viewers’ faces as well as a few tears of nostalgia. United Skates is a highly entertaining and very touching movie from Tina Brown. Dyana Winkler explores the culture of Black roller skate competitions and how it created a sense of community for years. These are not only places where groups create highly technical choreographies worthy of gold medals, but they are also places where Black people can have fun unbothered. Many roller rinks now face closure (and with the pandemic, it is hard to see this trend being reversed anytime soon), and so United Skates documents their “last parties.” The film raises awareness and honors the tradition for so many by filming the competitions and the fun people have before, during, and after.
We did say we would be staying away from teen parties as they are mostly having all the fun on screen, but this 2019 title, directed by Brian Welsh about two teenagers looking to party, is somewhat different from its peers. Shot in black and white, the film, based on Kieran Hurley’s play, is set in 1994 Scotland and is about a turning point in rave history. Beats is about a duo of youngsters trying to find a way to get to an epic rave. In the hope of having the night of their lives, they, like the viewers, get a better understanding of what was happening in this outlawed world. This subculture has often been minimized, but we’ve seen how it influenced wide and large, and Beats paints an engaging picture of how it started – at least there.
Mountains May Depart
Jia Zhangke’s 2015 masterpiece has so many beautiful shots of people dancing (until the very end) that feel like happy parties where people are shaking their worries off. This Chinese production, which unfolds over decades, from past to present to the near future, is ultimately a mother and son’s story. Mountains May Depart, like all of the master’s movies is also about life in an evolving China while being about something truly universal—life itself. No matter how deep and serious the story is, touches of fun and dance elevate this drama to new heights. One can say Jia cannot spend a movie away from a good party scene (such as the memorable club scene a-la Pulp Fiction in his 2018 Ash Is Purest White). In Mountains May Depart, he provides so much dreamy and soothing-to-watch fun time of all kinds happening in homes, in clubs, in the streets, or in the snow.
In his heartbreaking The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium filmmaker Felix Van Groeningen went from country music get-together to rock ‘n’ roll shenanigans in this 2016 drama about a bar closure and the end of an era. Belgica follows two brothers running a bar that becomes THE place to party hard. The movie is based on true stories about tumultuous pubs, their passionate owners, and the evolution of the nightlife scene. There are many “dramatic dramas” happenings in Belgica, but it comes with a killer soundtrack and has an infectious festive mood that will make you want to pump up the jam!
This Spike Lee joint was the biggest cinematic surprise of 2020 and feels like a big happy party where you want to hold hands (virtually for now) with the whole world optimistically! The project brings David Byrne‘s unique Broadway play to viewers’ homes and manages to possibly be the most immersive filmed stage-to-screen enterprise ever. American Utopia is highly contagious fun, and not just for those with an uncontrollable need to clap their hands whenever a Byrne’s song plays! It is hard to resist jumping out of the couch or dancing around the house (burning down the house!) alongside the eccentric singer and its fantastic band occupying the space. Lee’s direction keeps things moving and gives us a better view than the theater patrons while also admirably not taking much out of the communal joyful experience of a live event.
Honorable mentions: Fast & Furious (all-of-the-them! Whether the franchise’s characters show up at billionaire’s epic parties or simple gatherings for “the family,” these folks are doing it right!) American Hustle, Mank, The Bad Batch, Laurence Anyways, Downsizing, Gloria, Eighth Grade, Saint Laurent, The Square, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, Girlhood, Greed, Ex Machina, Call Me By Your Name, Another Round, Jojo Rabbit, Boy, My Salinger Year, El Consurante, Cuties, Burning, Magic Mike