This dance is the film’s creative climax, though not its emotional one (that is left to the breathtaking experience of the landing, heard but not seen). Almodóvar, a fan of the expressionistic dance-theater of the late German choreographer Pina Bausch (he featured her work in “Talk to Her”), has an astute dance sensibility. One of the characters in “I’m So Excited,” a suicidal ex-girlfriend, struck me as a nod to Bausch: tall and thin like her dancers, with red lipstick accentuating a gaunt, haunted face.
Many of the scenes have their own musical atmosphere, and the director’s eye for lyrical movement is everywhere in evidence. I especially admired the craftsmanship in the plane’s tiny food-prep area; here, whether they’re praying at a cardboard altar or mixing mescaline cocktails, all three flight attendants seamlessly adjust to one another’s movements.
“I’m So Excited” got me thinking: What is it about air travel that inspires choreography? Is it the dual experience of physical confinement and geographical escape? Surely our squashed subconscious dreams of dancing all the claustrophobia away.
The artful eye can even make a dance of the slog through the airport, with its stressful staccato of hurry-up-and-wait. Remember the ingenious opening of the great George Clooney film “
Up in the Air
,” directed by Jason Reitman. “To know me is to fly with me,” Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, tells us. He aims to collect a historic cache of frequent-flier miles as a 21st-century traveling salesman — though what he’s selling is your last day on the job. He fires people for a living.
So he’s the quintessential smooth operator, an abstraction of a human being, really, and we see this in the film’s first minutes as Clooney glides through a solo tour de force of traveling grace: wheeling his roller bag through the terminal with Gene Kelly-style deftness, twirling his laptop in his hands at the security check, slipping his jacket off and on with silky ease, zipping and unzipping, packing and unpacking, and always that smooth, ticktock, unimpeded stride. It’s unreal, but just real enough to tickle. We see this sequence twice more in the movie; it’s a metaphor for his life, and it loses its tightknit smoothness as the Clooney character’s world is upset.
“Make no mistake,” he tells us, “moving is living.” Yes, moving — even though our seat belts are buckled and our periphery is squeezed, even though the security line is long and static, we’re moving. We must be. As you travel this summer, or even if you don’t, keep thinking of forward motion. Even the fantasy of flight is liberating.