I don't know exactly what I expected of "Contemporary Color," but I definitely didn't expect what I got. That makes it very much on brand for David Byrne, the former front man of the Talking Heads and primary creative motor behind this curious and fascinating movie. Byrne has always specialized in art that defies easy categorization, and that's what this movie is. You could call it a musical performance documentary and not be wrong, but it's trying to do other things, too—some expertly and others not so well. There's never a point where you quite get a handle on it because it keeps changing in front of your eyes.
In theory, this documentary from New Orleans-based filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross is a recording of a concert at Brooklyn's Barclay Center arena that paired off high school color guards with top pop acts, including Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys, St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs. This is not a formal collaboration between the musicians and the dancers in the color guard, a phalanx of high school students in leotards who swirl flags and toss rifles and strike poses in time to music. What's happening between the musicians up on the stage and the color guard on the floor seems like a form of interpretive art. The color guard is making a work of art that responds to the music.
Matt Zoller Seitz
Film critic and filmmaker.