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RB dancers review Altman's 'The Company'Have you seen it? What did you think?


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#1 rebekah

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 01:42 AM

There is a review of Robert Altman's film 'The Company' (starring and produced by Neve Campbell) by Judith Mackrell, featuring comments on the film by Royal Ballet dancers Christina Arestisi, Edward Watson, Jonathan Howells, as well as by William Trevitt, Trevor Nunn and Christopher Saunders.

http://www.guardian....1209518,00.html

The overriding comment seems to be that they feel the film does not reflect 'their world' in any way, and the choreography wasn't up to much.

I went the other day (it isn't showing in many London cinemas) and was pretty disappointed. I really thought there would be better choroegraphy but it wasn't great. The film is motivated towards the new ballet called The Blue Snake which features some astonishing cotumes which seemed to made of multicoloured rubber-think Carabosse's attendents in technicolour!

The film is quite detached from the action which is perhaps typical of Altman's direction, this is especially true in the scene where a dancer snaps her achilles tendon-the company and the director (played by Malcom McDowell) look on and provide no support-Christina Arestis comments on this in the above review. I thought this wasn't very realistic.

There were some better moments, but I felt you never got enough detail or insight. Maybe I'm an old softy at heart but I wanted to know more about Ry (Neve Campbell) and her boyfriend, and how they coped with her rising career etc.

Unfortunately I don't think this film is going to succeed in bringing ballet to a wider audience, which is a shame. Maybe they should do a film for British ballet companies? Has anyone else seen it? xx

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 08:13 AM

But a lot of the scenes felt completely off to me. In one, the dancers sit around on the floor while a choreographer explains his work to them and they're giggling like schoolkids.

-Christopher Saunders

A member of the senior artistic staff of the company noticed this, too, and clamored against it, but Altman wouldn't move. And the Arpino Experience IS sort of over-the-top in real life.

Perhaps a British filmmaker, or a Herbert Ross (where?) could make another movie set in a ballet company, to give other views. That's what freedom of expression is for.

#3 Cabriole

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 09:00 AM

Perhaps a British filmmaker, or a Herbert Ross (where?) could make another movie set in a ballet company, to give other views.  That's what freedom of expression is for.

I don't think a 'directing pedigree' accounts for much; Nicholas Hytner, director of Center Stage, is a respected British stage director :D

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 02:36 PM

I think that was one of the myriad problems with Center Stage. It was stagey. It didn't look like it was designed for the screen. It was almost like those filmed stage plays of the 30's.

#5 Dansuer85

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 03:49 PM

I must say, I agree with alot of what they said, not tottaly, but I do see where they are comming from!

#6 Cygnet

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Posted 13 May 2004 - 11:42 AM

But a lot of the scenes felt completely off to me. In one, the dancers sit around on the floor while a choreographer explains his work to them and they're giggling like schoolkids.

-Christopher Saunders

A member of the senior artistic staff of the company noticed this, too, and clamored against it, but Altman wouldn't move.  And the Arpino Experience IS sort of over-the-top in real life.

Perhaps a British filmmaker, or a Herbert Ross (where?) could make another movie set in a ballet company, to give other views.  That's what freedom of expression is for.

I agree. When I saw it, it just didn't seem like a real ballet-world film to me. It was no "The Turning Point." But then again, neither was "Center Stage." For example, MacDowell's total lack of concern for the more serious injury during the "La Vivandiere" rehearsal scene, contrasted with his character's
fawning over a muscle spasm in another dancer's neck at the beginning of
the movie. Now that was absurd.

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 May 2004 - 06:04 PM

But recall this: When you see a Robert Altman film, you get Robert Altman's vision. Even though he may be sympathetic to dancers, he just "doesn't speak the language" and sometimes, the most incredible incongruities occur, but you are getting Altman's (very cinematic) vision. That's why people want to work with him as actors, and why people go to see the films -- they want that quirkiness.

#8 Kate B

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Posted 14 May 2004 - 12:56 AM

I just saw it last night. I think it was one of the worst films I have ever seen. My muscles are aching this morning from cringing so hard.

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 May 2004 - 03:19 AM

But also remember that this is not a documentary, except in the most limited ways. It shows who was in the Joffrey Ballet during the filming, and what ballets were "up" for production at the time the screenplay was written.

#10 sylvia

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Posted 15 May 2004 - 07:52 AM

I just saw it last night.  I think it was one of the worst films I have ever seen.  My muscles are aching this morning from cringing so hard.

Unfortunately that was my reaction too. Some of the dancing was quite interesting (La Vivandiere I'd never seen and I loved the most as brief as it was, and the ballet with the girl harnessed in the swing was so beautiful) but it doesn't make me want to run to see the Joffrey. I actually liked that there was no essential plot and that issues that were touched upon were never fully resolved, that no big thing is made of Ry's romance and the movie doesn't end with her big payoff but an injury. It's beautifully shot, especially the dance sequences and the feeling Altman gives of taking a peek into dancers' lives. Just a shame that he makes their lives seem so ludicrous at times, certainly in every single scene involving Malcolm MacDowell. And having to sit through The Blue Snake and it's rehearsals made me cringe and cringe - I can't believe this could possibly be what Neve Campbell had in mind when she dreamt of her big ballet finale. Was Altman smirking at how seriously we take ballet? It did make me consider that this was how ballet-haters must view fairytales like Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, etc, etc, and those red dancing monkeys aren't too far off the monkeys in MacMillan's Prince of Pagodas. I left the cinema almost crying with laughter, but it also leaves me a little angry the way Altman seems to make a mockery of it all. Who is this film meant to be for? People with no interest in dance would point to the balletomanes and the people with that interest don't seem terribly impressed either.

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 15 May 2004 - 08:46 AM

No a substantive comment but I just wanted to take a moment to say "good to read you again, Sylvia" -- you haven't been around in awhile. :lol:

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 May 2004 - 12:05 PM

Unfortunately, the Joffrey had got permission to use some "prettier" ballets from their repertoire, like "Patineurs" for the film, but for some reason Altman turned them down!

#13 Simon G

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Posted 15 May 2004 - 12:48 PM

Having just seen The Company i have to say this was not about dance but about Neve Campbell's vanity as a dancer manquee.

The swing ballet I actually thought worse than the blue snake. It reminded me of one of those egregious soft porn films from the 70's Ballet Emmanuel.

Campbell having been the producer/writer/star of the piece everything had to come down to her level, and I mean that kindly. What she did she did well enough, you could see that at one time a technique had been there, but was very VERY frayed around the edges. However, since Campbell was the one to get the film done it had to have her in it. Even as Altman it was bad Altman, think Nashville which was at once a celebration of Country while at the same time mocking affectionately. All those excellent characters who would come and go through the film, with whom one would connect vaguely, yet actually care about. You didn't care about anyone in this film.

A film about dance needs good dance within it. I mean The Turning Point is hardly a great film but the dancers and the dance make it watchable, as well as Maclaine and Bancroft who give the acting meat, to what were pretty cliched parts. Arpino's choreography is strangely timeless in it's obvious naffness, if you know what I mean. I've only seen one piece of his, Round of Angels, which I found even halfway engaging. Also much of the "dramatic" content was pretty gratuitous. That awful throwaway reference to Edward Stierle and AIDS within the ballet world was horrible as it was such a moment of tokenism. Also it's just as well that Campbell fell and hurt herself in the mesiterstuck Blue Snake immediately before the fouettes.

There was for me one saving grace and that was Deborah Dawn as the ageing ballerina who can't give up the stage, who desperately wants her final moments to be noted, her experience and work to be honoured yet finds herself being shunted, ignored and playing out her final moments alone. That for me had a flavour of what the passion to dance is about. All the rest was this horrible rose-tinted sentimental ballet dream of Neve Campbell.

#14 Kate B

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 06:39 AM

Who is this film meant to be for? People with no interest in dance would point to the balletomanes and the people with that interest don't seem terribly impressed either.

Good point! I went thinking, even if there isn't much of a story and it is full of cliches, there will at least be an opportunity to see some interesting dancing. But no, I agree with a lot of what Simon G said. I didn't like the swing dance! And Blue Snake! I just can't understand why the Joffrey would allow themselves to look so clunky and old-fashioned. It's not going to impress dance fans or ordinary film-goers.

#15 Mel Johnson

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 09:15 AM

Allow me to reiterate. The choice of ballets was not the Joffrey's, but Altman's. For making poor programming choices, who would be likely to throw Altman out on his ear? Jolly few, that's who.


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