About 20 minutes into Girl Walk // All Day, as “The Girl” (Anne Marsen) continues playfully traipsing around Manhattan, she comes across two Hasidic Jews walking down the street. It takes a few moments before they respond to her gyrations—and while they’re interacting with her, director Jacob Krupnick adds two yellow subtitles that suggest an unspoken dialogue exchange. “Why are you dancing?” one of the men asks her. “Because I’m happy,” the ever-smiling girl responds, to which the Hasid says, “You should always be happy.” That’s a succinct encapsulation of the proudly optimistic spirit animating this joyous film, a worldview which the rest of Girl Walk // All Day illustrates with a combination of thrilling street ballet, exultant music, and unflagging verve.
The film’s soundtrack consists of the entirety of All Day, the most recent album from Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk. As a DJ, Gillis is unafraid to juxtapose samples of classic pop-rock with the latest popular music; his mash-ups are inspiring largely because of their inclusive embrace of all types of music. Taking his cues from Gillis’s unerring sense of great beats, Krupnick infuses Girl Walk // All Day with a similarly openhearted spirit, using its paper-thin narrative—revolving around a nameless female dancer, a street artist referred to as “The Gentleman” (Dai Omiya), and a romantic rival credited as “The Creep” (John Doyle)—as a basis for an episodic New York-centric wish-fulfillment fantasy. In this film’s world, the street performers that many urban folk either gawk at or ignore become the center of attention, in essence becoming a collective expression of the joy of living in a richly varied, wide-open environment such as New York City.
Not that the darker sides of urban life are ignored. In one episode, the Gentleman runs afoul of a robber who steals money he earned while performing on the street; he never gets that money back. The Girl, after going on a shopping spree and glamming herself up, runs into an Occupy Wall Street gathering where she’s inevitably jeered by protesters. And on a more playful note, the camera captures the mixture of amusement, bewilderment, and sometimes outright contempt that random passersby offer up while witnessing these dancers—a slyly multifaceted expression of a certain jaded big-city mindset.
All these sideways glances at the darker corners of urban life, however, are ultimately subsumed by the spectacle of seeing these dancers performing for themselves and each other out of sheer love of movement. The pleasure is enhanced by Krupnick’s preference for a relatively more classical approach to filming these performers, shooting in long takes instead of the quick-cut style favored by the likes of Baz Luhrmann and Rob Marshall. The ecstasy of Girl Walk // All Day, however, doesn’t just lie in its style. Krupnick’s vision is one where disappointments can be countered with a smile, characters can be redeemed, and the drudgeries of daily life can literally be colored with art and love. By nightfall, the whole city—or, at the very least, a large crowd in Central Park—is pulled into their orbit, dancing to the strains of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” A more inspiring middle finger to cynicism is difficult to imagine.