Nanarina

Fred Wiseman's New Documentary of The Paris Opera Ballet

180 posts in this topic

I put my afternoon aside to sneak off and catch this film in Irvine, CA. "La Danse" is flawed with what Macauley calls "having no center" and I did find myself bored with some long sections of a few of the contemporary pieces. Editing was needed IMO. It also ends abruptly with an odd choice of dance choreography. Here are the many wonderful impressions left with my by film's end.........

*Excellent camera angles while viewing the dancers both in rehearsal and on stage....giving you a personal up close look at these beautiful dancers

*A private look inside the Paris Opera House so quietly filmed that you felt that you were strolling through yourself. And you are shown so many areas that are not privy to the public.

*Watching the coaching and listening to the delightful comments from the ballet masters. There is a comment regarding S. Farrell which made me chuckle out loud! There were many insightful conversations here for different reasons.

*Spending leirsurely time in rehearsals which made you feel that you were there watching.

*Bringing the viewer in for business sessions and a couple of private talks between AD and dancer.

It is a quiet film that lets you wander around the Paris Opera during work hours of this world class company. It captures the hallways, various small reheasal spaces, rooftop and basements as well as the costume room and offices. The film did need a central point. In parts, it did ramble. And I was surprised that contemporary work was given a large part of footage. Although I did not care for much of these contemporary pieces, it was a delight to watch the processes in rehearsals and then to stage. This film maker's lens was full of love for ballet. However, a point of view about POB or ballet in general was missing. It is definitely worth viewing. But I am afraid that the general population would doze off.............because there is not much narration, it serves those 'in the know' to fair better through the 2 1/2+ hours.

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Finally! Wiseman's "La Danse" opens tomorrow Friday 12/4/09 at the Balboa Theatre here in San Francisco. It's only a 1-wk run and is being presented in association with the San Francisco Film Society and Documentary Film Institute at San Francisco State University. Here's the theater's website where you can view showtimes: http://www.balboamovies.com/ You lucky right-coasters who got to view this film a whole month before us left-coasters! There's tons of reviews and "official trailers" on the net, so I'm just providing the filmmaker's website for interested parties: http://www.zipporah.com/

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That's nice to know, thanks. I'm not sure I'm up to sitting through the entire running time in a theater - Wiseman's documentaries now tend to run about as long as Braveheart - but at least I have the option.

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That's nice to know, thanks. I'm not sure I'm up to sitting through the entire running time in a theater - Wiseman's documentaries now tend to run about as long as Braveheart - but at least I have the option.

It should be out on DVD in 4/6 months, so you watch it at your leisure at home (if you have a DVD) Nana

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I would far recommend seeing it in the theater rather than in miniature... When are you going to have front row seats to the Paris Opera? Why resign yourself instead to the equivalent of nosebleed seats by watching it on the small screen? Just walk out if you need to, but go see it writ large. Trust me, the film tickets are super cheap compared to an equivalent view live.

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I just received this notification in an email from Oregon Ballet Theatre.

http://obt.org/donate_events_la_danse.html

This is such a great idea; more Ballet Companies should think of this. I definitely want to see it and would pay a premium to (a) Get it to show here locally and (b) to support the local ballet company. I think I am not alone in that.

I'm very curious as to how successful this will be.

-goro-

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Yes, Amy. It is an amazing experience to view this doc. on the big screen. The camera work is excellent. And you really do feel like you are close up and personal. I encouraged my DD and her friends to go to the film forum in NYC to see this. It is worth it. IMO. And the pace, be it leisurely, floats you into a world of its own...........I found this aspect to be magical.

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But the film is so damn long that it will be great to get it someday on DVD so that you can get up and sit down, and start and stop it at leisure. Personally I couldn't sit all the way through it but went twice and saw it in halves. Maybe we could have done without the shots of the cafeteria meals, etc.. MP

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Does anyone know who the choreographer was discussing casting with Brigitte Lefevre?

...

Any ideas?

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But the film is so damn long that it will be great to get it someday on DVD so that you can get up and sit down, and start and stop it at leisure. Personally I couldn't sit all the way through it but went twice and saw it in halves. Maybe we could have done without the shots of the cafeteria meals, etc.. MP

That was my feeling about Wiseman's ABT movie. I saw it first at home and wasn't sorry. I understand why he might want to follow the dancers at more quotidian activities, look at buildings, etc., but after a certain point this viewer needed a break.

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The run at Northwest Film Forum (Seattle) has been extended, until 12/18 (no show on the 17th, when the theater has its annual holiday party)

And they reminded us last night that they'll be showing Red Shoes in February, with a new 35 mm print.

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...

Does anyone know who the choreographer was discussing casting with Brigitte Lefevre?

...

Any ideas?

I believe it was Emanuel Gat. His ballet, Hark, debuted the following season.

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...

Does anyone know who the choreographer was discussing casting with Brigitte Lefevre?

...

Any ideas?

I believe it was Emanuel Gat. His ballet, Hark, debuted the following season.

Thanks for the answer, cinnamonswirl!

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:tiphat: I suppose thart I am very lucky to have a very large Digital?HD Wide screen TV, which includes cinema surround speakers. I watch a lot of ballet dvds on it, and it is very different to the smallert versions of TV. Without this I would be unable to see the film or screen properly. Naturally I prefer to go to a theatre, or cinema, but that is not always possible. I am quite happy to watch dvd's, and I get a good quality of sound and vision. If need be I can pause the film and have an interval, as long as I take a break in a suitable place.

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I saw the film on the last showing of the penultimate day in NYC. A few surprised reactions, the first being how much English was spoken in the studios, which are, after all, in that country that takes such pride in its own language to the disparagement of every other. :) Another was LeFevre's velvet gloves. I suppose they must cover iron fists, but she seems eager to make her collaborators (including her youngest dancers) feel heard and respected.

Yes, it's too long, but every extraneous detail caught on camera, such as the worker plastering over an apparent pipe repair, was still a reminder of the breadth of detail that keeps POB's engines humming.

Who was that guy who did that gorgeous Paquita variation*? Wow! I want to see more of him.

I also enjoyed the little debate between Thesmar and the other ballet master about the use of the heel, whether to plant it solidly on the floor or give it a little lift.

I saw it on Screen #2 at Film Forum, sitting about 2/3-3/4 of the way back. I had lots of options, as I don't think there were even 30 people at this screening, so it was my choice, but I didn't feel like I had a front-row seat. I was always aware that I was watching the action through someone else's eyes. Maybe that's the difference between a cinematographer and a lay person, but I tend to agree with Nanarina, that for some, home viewing is just fine.

*Mathias Heymann, who looked so very different in his recent visit to NYCB to do Rubies. Thanks to Cinnamonswirl's post #7 on this thread. :thumbsup:

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I just saw it in Berkeley, sold out matinee -- in facte very show has been sold out, if you don't get there 15 minutes early you can' get in.. Lots of disappointed people in the lobby, lots of ballet teachers around here.

But the audience wasn't ballet people -- they were a mixed bag, mostly older people with lots of interests -- this is a college town.

I was very impressed with Lefevre. I'd play on her team any time -- she has a sense the value of this concerted effort and makes sure it stays concerted. Many MANY issues she's balancing -- the younger dancers don't like the contemporary works, they're afraid of the technique -- we HAVE classes for them, why don't they take them? Explaining why the new ballet has to be put off till all the ballet masters can be included in the process from the beginning. Clothilde is not available yet, we need her from the beginning..... etc. And I love the way she stood up to the government re pensions, and also made the pep talk about the importance of keeping the POB 's own internal standards untarnished. I REALLY admire her -- call me naive, but I l feel like Kent who says to Lear, Thou hast that in thy face I would fain follow -- what's that? "Authority."

She has natural authority, the kind that comes from knowing what's going on, that's authority, and I'll follow someone like her.

And who did the classical variation that started with a temps de poisson, then did 2 brise volees and some sixes. that was BEAUTIFUL!!!

Loved Sasha Waltz's RnJ -- the business with the foot was SO poignant. That's how young lovers are, it's really true, the fascination with the complexity and many-sidedness of someone when you give each other permission like that. He actually puts his hand between her legs in a way that is not embarrassing for us nor in any way salacious -- it's just so tender and supportive and full of complex generous intention.

Medea looked better in rehearsal, and the ballet master was really great.

And the Macgregor looked quite wonderful to me.

Paul

:wub: October 2nd 2009, France 24 Culture, available on Satelite in the UK. I have just watched a itnterview on the Culture Spot, this evening giving details of a new documentary by the well known Film Maker Fred Wiseman about the Paris Opera Ballet. It is based on the same format as his earlier film about Ther American Ballet Theatre. Instead of direct dialogue with the performers he uses the sounds of the moment to bring the audience into the scene, and experience the life of the Company.

A total of 117 hours of film was shot, which has been edited to produce the end product.

I think this new work is to be released from the 6th October in Paris. Hopefully we will also gert the chance to see it in the UK, as we did the ABT documentary he made.

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And who did the classical variation that started with a temps de poisson, then did 2 brise volees and some sixes. that was BEAUTIFUL!!!

That's what I asked, then answered. Best dancing in the whole film, wasn't it?

Who was that guy who did that gorgeous Paquita variation*? Wow! I want to see more of him.

....

*Mathias Heymann, who looked so very different in his recent visit to NYCB to do Rubies. Thanks to Cinnamonswirl's post #7 on this thread. :wub:

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Yeah, HE was FABULOUS--

But that's not the variation I'm talking about. They both began with beaten sissonnes, but the Paquita one is a la seconde and travels sideways and the whole thing makes a square. This one was in arabesque and traveled on the diagonal, and the music was Prince's music from Nutcracker

And who did the classical variation that started with a temps de poisson, then did 2 brise volees and some sixes. that was BEAUTIFUL!!!

That's what I asked, then answered. Best dancing in the whole film, wasn't it?

Who was that guy who did that gorgeous Paquita variation*? Wow! I want to see more of him.

....

*Mathias Heymann, who looked so very different in his recent visit to NYCB to do Rubies. Thanks to Cinnamonswirl's post #7 on this thread. :wub:

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Then I misidentified the piece, ergo the dancer as well. It was definitely the beat-y variation that I liked so much.

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I dunno -- they BOTH have tons of beats.

The Paquita one we see both in rehearsal AND onstage, and the point of the rehearsal is to get the girl to dance a little more interestingly; and when we see it onstage there's a voice-over where someone calls to another to "Come see this, it's so beautiful" which indeed it is, such loft, such feathery beats, such tender landings. It really is fabulous.

The other one is (I guess) part of a Nutcracker rehearsal for the principal man, and every step is beaten, the failli, the brisees, the assemble, the sixes. WHO DAT MAN?

the difference is one is Minkus and the other Tchaikovsky

Then I misidentified the piece, ergo the dancer as well. It was definitely the beat-y variation that I liked so much.

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I'm pretty sure it wasn't the Tchaikovsky. I would have remembered that, I think (but the harder I think, the confuseder I get :wub: -- thanks a lot!) . My memory's eye sees a guy in white tights and a black (or maybe darkest blue) jacket-like tunic. Performance footage, not rehearsal.

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I saw this in a tiny art theater at a Sunday matinee. I'm in agreement with Paul in just about everything: really impressed by Brigitte Lefevre, touched by the Waltz Romeo and Juliet, wishing to see the full Songe de Medee (definitely with Gillot). I did not enjoy watching Macgregor rehearsing Genus with the dancers, but was surprised by how impressed I was by the performance.

I loved the coaching and the rehearsal process. (It helped to be able to recognize a number of the principal dancers from dvds AND having DanceActress's invaluable list of dancers from earlier in this thread.) The shots of Paquita, with the long diagonal line of girls, was one of the most beautiful classical ballet images I've ever seen.

However, am I the only viewer her to have found the Mats Ek House of Bernarda to be ridiculous. I love this play and have attended several dance and alternate-theater versions of it. Never, except yesterday afternoon, did I experience an audience actually giggling at what was going on onstage. Not even the Trocks could have dreamed this one up.

As for the film: I felt as though I was reading one of those long modernist novels which were all about style and where the reader (viewer) has to do too much deciphering as the words and images meander on and on. I was torn: fascinated by almost everything on the screen but also frustrated by what seemed to me to a lack of clear development and an unwillingness to help the audience focus on the various stands that were, in fact, developing.

I confess, also, to becoming annoyed by the recurring shots of empty hallways and staircases. And at one point towards the end I thought: if there's one more quick cut to a long shot of Paris in the early morning ("NEXT DAY!" I GET IT!), I'll scream. :wink:

I join with Amy's suggestion earlier in this thread, hoping that the dvd, when it is issued, offers the option of viewing a version in which at least a few of the dancers, coaches, ballets, and locations are identified.

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I was torn: fascinated by almost everything on the screen but also frustrated by what seemed to me to a lack of clear development and an unwillingness to help the audience focus on the various stands that were, in fact, developing.

I confess, also, to becoming annoyed by the recurring shots of empty hallways and staircases. And at one point towards the end I thought: if there's one more quick cut to a long shot of Paris in the early morning ("NEXT DAY!" I GET IT!), I'll scream.

I am always fascinated by how differently we "in depth" fans can react to things.

Strangely bart, one of the things I liked the most about the film was how it didn't attempt to explain anything (altho I would be in favor of some subtitles with just the names of ballets, choreographers, and dancers). I even loved the shots of the empty halls etc. These techniques gave me the feeling of being there wandering about on my own....as if I had simply been lucky enough to have wandered into the bldg and the powers-that-be allowing me to simply go where ever I wanted to see whatever I wanted......the proverbial "fly on the wall".

Yeah, perhaps too many "Paris in the early morning" shots, but if push came to shove, I wouldn't take a single one of those out if I had the chance to edit. Somehow, I liked the "back to home base" quality of that ever repeating image.

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I am always fascinated by how differently we "in depth" fans can react to things.
Me, too. I was actually rather appalled by my reaction, which somehow seemed overly-literal or even anti-cinematic. "God, what a data-dependent, empirically-obsessed Philistine I am!"

So, I guess we also learn about ourselves while experience highly personal works of art like this.

I should mention that I saw this in an audience consisting of elderly people for the most part, a number of whom seemed to have expected -- based on the poster and the NY Times review reprinted in our local paper -- something a lot more conventional. Overheard on leaving the theater: "I do like the Nutcracker." "Paris is so beautiful." "Aren't they thin?" This was not a Ballet Talk audience. But all of us were amazingly still and silent for the full length of the film, appearing to be mesmerized. Two did walk out, but those who remained seemed generally quite impressed and even slightly in awe.

Who knows what each of us "saw" or got from this film? Whatever it was ... it was rich and bountiful. This is a tribute to the institution and people of the Paris Opera Ballet. Wiseman's achievement was to capture and organize it in a way that allows each of us to select/ignore, understand/misunderstand, love/be bored by whatever we choose.

A very interesting process.

P.S. Did anyone pick up on the following bit of off-the-cuff bitchiness? "The flaws of Suzanne Farrell became qualities for others." :wink: Who was it that said that? Lacotte?

And then there's a great line from Lefevre: "A dancer is both a race horse and its jockey." (I'm adding that to our Quotable Quotes thread.)

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