IM­PULSO, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, in Span­ish with English sub­ti­tles, Vi­o­let Crown, 2.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

Rocío Molina is a fla­menco dancer who wears knee and el­bow pads, dances while smok­ing a cig­a­rette, opens a con­cert with the sonic shock of rock gui­tar, and fre­quently has no idea what is about to hap­pen when she steps on stage. Im­pulso, the ti­tle of this 2017 doc­u­men­tary writ­ten and di­rected with rhyth­mic orig­i­nal­ity by Emilio Bel­monte, refers to Molina’s im­pulse to­ward im­pro­vi­sa­tion. “I have grown to crave the un­known,” she says. “Fla­menco is noth­ing but rhythm. I use it with more free­dom than some. I play with it. It’s like bread dough — you flat­ten it, stretch it, and you let it rest.”

Molina per­forms as a solo dancer with a group of mu­si­cians. She is clearly a vir­tu­oso clas­si­cal fla­menco artist, as are her mu­si­cians. Their choice to open up the form, to take it to an­other place — to mod­ern­ize it, if you will — is not par­tic­u­larly unique, but the style and in­ten­sity with which they do so are. The film fo­cuses on the pre­miere of a new pro­duc­tion, “Caída del Cielo” (Fallen from the Sky), at the Théâtre Na­tional de Chail­lot, in Paris. Re­hearsals are shown in Paris as well as dur­ing the sum­mer be­fore the pre­miere, at a ru­ral re­hearsal space in An­dalu­cia, Spain. In ad­di­tion to ex­cerpts from the fi­nal pro­duc­tion, there are per­for­mance snip­pets show­ing her of­fer­ing “im­pul­sos” at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions, like in the Art Deco lobby of the Chail­lot, which over­looks the Eif­fel Tower, as well as by the sea, in Malagá, and at the Jerez Fes­ti­val, where she per­forms in a jump­suit with what looks like plas­tic fringe cover­ing her pants.

De­spite what may seem like some gim­micky ideas (see the cig­a­rette), the power of Molina’s per­for­mance is clear, as is its ef­fect on au­di­ences. She wraps her­self in a vo­lu­mi­nous white dress with tra­di­tional frills and then takes to the ground, where the cos­tume log­i­cally be­comes a bed­sheet, the dance a dream. Else­where, her plas­tic cos­tume in­cludes a long cola (train) dipped in blood-col­ored paint. The dance takes place on a stage cov­ered in white pa­per, and the direc­tor shoots from above, show­ing the traces left by Molina’s move­ment like some kind of Ja­panese brush stroke paint­ing, or a crime scene.

Molina’s mother is bru­tally hon­est dur­ing an in­ter­view, stat­ing that some­times the in­ten­sity with which her daugh­ter ap­proaches dance and per­for­mance scares her. “She be­comes this mon­ster,” she says. Molina, on the other hand, is in­ter­ested in show­ing the “amaz­ing power of woman.” She comes off­stage in Paris, where her mother has been watch­ing. “Mama,” she re­as­sures her. “You know I do this for fun.”

Im­pulso is part dance doc­u­men­tary, part trav­el­ogue, and a fas­ci­nat­ing look into new as­pects of an old form. Molina’s ver­sion of fla­menco is pow­er­fully felt and worth watch­ing. — Michael Wade Simp­son

Stamp and tap: Rocío Molina

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