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The Company -- first reviews

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There's been very little talk about the new ballet film by Altman, The Company. The film is coming out now, and there are a few reviews. It sounds as though this is actually a film about DANCE. Ari posted the links on Links, here's a sampling:

Director Robert Altman's new ballet film comes to Toronto film festival

The result is a remarkable hybrid between traditional storytelling and free-spirited documentary where few of the lines delivered by the professional actors - and by the participating ballet company members - were actually scripted.

Like Hollywood, the world of ballet is fiercely exclusionary, where art constantly dukes it out with budgets and where egos must bend to business discipline, or at least reach a compromise with it. Campbell and her colleagues agreed that Altman was just the one to deliver on the Altman-esque look they wanted.

She added that past films about ballet have not really been about dance itself, but rather about dancers who want to make it to the big time.

"To me they don't commit to what dancers go through and how they suffer and how they are athletes and how they live with no money for their art."

The plot is slender as a reed, with no beginning, middle or end.

[Neve] Campbell plays a member of the Joffrey troupe. She meets a handsome young chef (James Franco) and they develop a relationship that may or may not go anywhere. Another dancer tears her Achilles tendon in a wrenching scene where the crack is heard by one and all. In another breathtakingly staged sequence, the dancers perform ballet in the park and Campbell is triumphant even as thunder and lightning come roaring off Lake Michigan threatening to halt the performance and send the audience fleeing.

Then there's Malcolm McDowell as the autocratic artistic director, a character he says he based only partly on the Joffrey's real-life AD and co-creator, Gerald Arpino, who sat next to him at the news conference and who seemed not at all offended that his screen counterpart was played as thoroughly obnoxious and smarmy.

Toronto Greets Altman's 'Company', 'Veronica Guerin'

"The Company" is much closer in tone to a documentary than a traditional drama. Elaborate stage productions are combined with behind-the-scene looks at rehearsals and the struggle of dancers to make ends meet.

Altman, who received Oscar nominations for "Gosford Park," "Short Cuts," "The Player," "Nashville" and "M*A*S*H," told journalists on Monday that the film "doesn't have a story really, a real plot." The maverick director said he was deliberately trying to make a film outside the Hollywood mold.

Film Review: 'The Company'

"The Company" is Robert Altman (news)'s valentine to the challenging world of ballet and its world-class dancers. Eschewing the high drama of a dance film like "The Turning Point," Altman and his collaborators go for documentary-like realism, which scrutinizes company rehearsals, quick repairs to bruised and callused bodies, arguments over choreography and the performances themselves, all lovingly photographed by Andrew Dunn.

Altman and screenwriter Barbara Turner impose little narration on the film. Instead, they let the drama emerge from the daily routines of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

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