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ASHTON'S La Fille Mal Gardee in the 2000's.Reflections on a real charming ballet


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#16 Treefrog

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 06:05 PM

I lucked into last-minute tickets for "Fille" at Paris Opera Ballet last summer. (Hubby, bless him, didn't blanch a bit at paying top dollar.) It was thoroughly charming, as everyone says. As it was a first for me, I cannot say if the French "got it" as well as the Brits.

I wonder if anyone else has thoughts about an observation I had: that the character of Alain is autistic or has Asperger's syndrome. It seemed a pretty dead-on characterization to me: socially awkward, fixated on his umbrella, and if I remember correctly, with awkward and stereotyped movements (although maybe I'm making that last bit up). I've heard him described as a simpleton, but it seemed to me there was much more to him than that.

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 07:22 PM

Let's not overthink this. This is farce comedy. Alain is just another in a long line of unappetizing arranged bridegrooms. Think of poor Arturo Bucklaw in Lucia di Lammermoor: Lucy takes her first look at him, and says, "Gran Dio!"

#18 Treefrog

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 07:32 PM

Well, that's the thing, I wasn't thinking at all. It just seemed very clear to me. I'm wondering if there's anyone familiar with autism spectrum disorders who has seen Fille who had the same thought.

And, why not?

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 07:36 PM

Because it's farce comedy.

#20 Paul Parish

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 09:19 PM

I saw Alexander Grant in the role way back when, and I thought then that he was so sweetly cretinous, he had something like a holy fool about him -- his umbrella united him to the heavens somehow, andhe did not have enough worldly wisdom about him to survive, but aside from his vanity, he's a spotless soul.... like Harpo Marx without the cutting up.

I don't know enough about Asperger's to guess, but your observatino strikes me as very plausible. It could be a very effective way to create comic stylization. Ashton was famously a great mimic -- if he'd seen someone with Asperger's, he might have been able to give a full imitation.

#21 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 09:25 PM

I'm wondering if there's anyone familiar with autism spectrum disorders who has seen Fille who had the same thought.

And, why not?

Yeah, why not...? If not ASD, at least his behavior seems to be that of a patient with some sort of Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

#22 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 02:35 AM

Alain is a stock character - the village idiot. Ashton got him from music hall, the same way he got Mere Simone from pantomime. The dance artist makes him a plausible human being. I've seen Alains who were terrifically sympathetic, about like the Chaplin Little Tramp, and I've seen ones who were just sort of bratty. It's all in the interpretation by the artist, and his making a connection with the audience.

We don't have a lot of time to observe this character; we could more successfully diagnose Lucy Ricardo, because we have a lot more behavior to analyze. My question would be why?

#23 papeetepatrick

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 06:54 AM

Ashton was famously a great mimic -- if he'd seen someone with Asperger's, he might have been able to give a full imitation.


But even if he had seen one and was imitating him, he would have just been inspired by characteristics he saw, not creating a character with Asperger's unless he specified it. If it is farce comedy, you don't have a character with Asperger's per se, do you? Toby in 'The Medium' is a Gypsy mute, but we also do know that his tongue was cut out.

Alain is a stock character - the village idiot. Ashton got him from music hall, the same way he got Mere Simone from pantomime. The dance artist makes him a plausible human being. I've seen Alains who were terrifically sympathetic, about like the Chaplin Little Tramp, and I've seen ones who were just sort of bratty. It's all in the interpretation by the artist, and his making a connection with the audience.

We don't have a lot of time to observe this character; we could more successfully diagnose Lucy Ricardo, because we have a lot more behavior to analyze. My question would be why?


Don't they because Ashton is relatively recent, so contemporary observations must seem relevant that wouldn't for the 19th century, not too stretched for 'legitimate revisionist history'. Most 19th century characters, like Giselle or La Sylphide, may seem as if without a hardened enough ego or just defeatist and suicidal, even stripped of fairy status when applicable, couldn't they? I don't even tend to get very involved with Freudian talk about Siegfried and his mother, but wonder if that occurs as well because Freud goes back far enough for it to resonate somehow; Freud applied to Antigone doesn't even if it appears to. We all know that Chaplin's Little Tramp imitators don't get sympathy in real life. I do recall that Boulez heard a disturbed person playing the flute in a Scottish castle and thought it was the most extraordinary sound, but if he then 'used it', I'm sure he didn't say anywhere 'here's the part where I made the classical version of the changeling's flute-playing--it's a little birdlike thing' or here's the 'little phrase' as the Vinteuil Odette and Swann used to hear...and the clownish types in 'Slaughter on 10th Avenue' are just menacing low pimps when they leave the show. Or something like that. Others that come to mind are Marxist analyses of Mammy in 'Gone with the Wind': She appears to be loved and revered, but she is given no will of her own by the 'corrupt society'. I'm never convinced by such analyses. And Peter Pan definitely suffered from the Peter Pan Complex.

#24 carbro

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 09:30 AM

Thanks to Paul Parish for leading us to this illustration from Wikipedia's entry on Fille, captioned as "Dauberval's inspiration for La Fille Mal Gardée - Pierre Antoine Baudouin's painting Le Reprimande/Une Jeune Fille Querellée par sa Mère, Paris, 1789."


http://en.wikipedia....mande_-1789.JPG

The date is arresting. Rebellion was in the air.

#25 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:49 PM

Don't they because Ashton is relatively recent, so contemporary observations must seem relevant that wouldn't for the 19th century, not too stretched for 'legitimate revisionist history'. Most 19th century characters, like Giselle or La Sylphide, may seem as if without a hardened enough ego or just defeatist and suicidal, even stripped of fairy status when applicable, couldn't they?


I don't know; could they? While at first this seems to fall under the "no-Freud" rule (If it's from before Freud was common coin, no Freud.), I think it really falls under the "don't judge a book from its cover" rule of social engagement. (Don't try to psychoanalyze somebody you've only met just today, and for less than two hours).

It might be intellectually useful to observe characters in various dramas, but to tell you the truth, we rarely have enough behavior to follow. Using psychological techniques may help us to understand the Romantic movement, say, or the pre-Classic period here, but it rarely enhances our enjoyment. If it does for you, bully for you, and I would be the last person to deprive you of enjoyment, but I just don't think it works.

#26 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:07 PM

Don't try to psychoanalyze somebody you've only met just today, and for less than two hours).

Well, the thing is that we've known Alain for quite a long time already, and his demeanor really seems to fall under a certain DSM-IV R Axis...! (Giselle's too, BTW, as the poor girl is certainly a Risk for Suicide target...and even suicidal in some incarnations)

I just don't think it works.

I actually find it interesting.

#27 papeetepatrick

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:15 PM

I don't know; could they? While at first this seems to fall under the "no-Freud" rule (If it's from before Freud was common coin, no Freud.), I think it really falls under the "don't judge a book from its cover" rule of social engagement. (Don't try to psychoanalyze somebody you've only met just today, and for less than two hours).


I meant that they possibly could if the other things like the Asperger's could be inferred; in other words, I never do any of this. The 'no-Freud rule' is not always observed anyway, even it's Marx instead. Marxist's don't apply the no-Freud rule to Marx ever, and often even say, more or less, people should have known better than to be ruling class., and that past social developments and evolutions are quite as inexcusable in hindsight as existing terrible conditions are.

It might be intellectually useful to observe characters in various dramas, but to tell you the truth, we rarely have enough behavior to follow. Using psychological techniques may help us to understand the Romantic movement, say, or the pre-Classic period here, but it rarely enhances our enjoyment. If it does for you, bully for you, and I would be the last person to deprive you of enjoyment, but I just don't think it works.


Just so long as you don't want to deprive me of enjoyment, except that I begin to think I can't write comprehensibly, because my whole drift was that none of it gives me any enjoyment at all, and often doesn't respect history. I don't want brainwashed and sterilizied 'Le Bayaderes', if I have to have one. I am not balletomane enough to care for it even tainted properly with period racism. Am I now clear, or have I only misunderstood you in that you had not misunderstood me the first time? In any case, Asperger's Syndrome Analysis decidedly will never enhance my 'Fille mal Gardee' experience, and I think James may be more to blame than the Sylph anyway, so gets punishment instead of therapy. In other words, I don't think it works either, but bully for you is good.

#28 bart

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:16 PM

Fascinating discussion. Like Cristian, I enjoy diagnosing (or psychoanalyzing) fictional characters and find nothing wrong with it at all. The richer the character, the more he or she can bear a variety of interpretations. As in: "Is Hamlet suffering from a bad case of the Oedipus Complex? Discuss."

Also -- :beg: -- don't forget the question about dvd performances.

I've only seen the Royal Ballet dvd with Lesley Collier and Michael Coleman, to designs by Osbert Lancaster. How does that peformance compare to others you have seen?

And how about other dvds? Amazon has The Australian Ballet production of the Ashton ballet, with Fiona Tonkin, and David McAllister. Nanarina recommended this above. Amazon also has a dvd of a version by Heinz Spoerli for Basler Ballett, with Valentina Kozlova and Chris Jensen. Any comments about either of those?

:)

#29 papeetepatrick

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:27 PM

Fascinating discussion. Like Cristian, I enjoy diagnosing (or psychoanalyzing) fictional characters and find nothing wrong with it at all. The richer the character, the more he or she can bear a variety of interpretations. As in: "Is Hamlet suffering from a bad case of the Oedipus Complex? Discuss."


Yes, I can see from this discussion that I am distinctly allergic to almost all psychoanalysis, although I've gotten some interesting things from reading Jung, far more than Freud or Lacan. Being as well one of those who totally resists any kind of psychotherapist (having spend a minimum amount of time--about 8 sessions between 2 doctors that was reducible to grief counseling) I'd much rather read the Norse mythologies about the Ring Cycle, and I can read Sophocles or Euripides or Racine without any reference to what somebody later on started proving in between accounts of Dora and the Rat Man, which always sound a lot more like Kafka than they do anything Greek. As for the ballets, I'm a thousand times more interested in Mme. D'Aulnoy and Charles Perrault.

#30 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:45 PM

without any reference to what somebody later on started proving in between accounts of Dora and the Rat Man

:smilie_mondieu: :yahoo: :rofl: (....Oops, i'm sorry, but i couldn't resist!)...But back to the original subject of "Fille"...


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