Be wary of any profile that starts out with footage of a subject talking in the car; the shot may augur a lack of imagination to follow. Given that Carmen and Geoffrey focuses on two of the most innovative figures of African-American modern dance—Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder—it’s a shame that this film is both uncreative and technically maladroit. Critics and dancers are interviewed against blindingly sunlit windows; during one outdoor testimony, a strong wind renders Holder’s normally booming voice almost inaudible. There are even spots of liquid on the camera (stray spittle, perhaps?) that tempt you to lean forward and wipe them off.
Despite the film’s besmirched lens, the husband and wife emerge as remarkably charismatic; De Lavallade’s dancing is still extraordinary, even at the age of 71. Holder delivers some great lines, demanding at one point during a choreography session that his female dancers give him more tits and his males more balls. But it’s the black-and-white archival footage that partially redeems this doc, especially the excerpts of The Wiz featuring a cast dressed to provoke in watermelon costumes. And the scenes of De Lavallade dancing with Alvin Ailey are real treats, no matter what dross surrounds them.