Movie review: "La Danse"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Any artist will identify with the passion and perfectionism documented in "La Danse," Frederick Wiseman's sprawling look at the Paris Opera Ballet.

It's the latest in a long line of exhaustive documentaries from the 80-year-old filmmaker, whose techniques will seem decidedly old-school to a generation raised on Michael Moore. Instead of snazzy graphics and quick cuts, he takes a fly-on-the-wall approach, relying on a camera to capture the daily life of the ballet.

Over the course of the two-hour-and-forty-minute movie, we follow seven separate ballets from rehearsal to production. The raw footage - lots and lots of it - is what moves the story along, not talking-head interviews or voice-overs.

The director favors long, uninterrupted takes, letting us watch the dancers complete rigorous run-throughs as the choreographers critique every plie and pirouette.

Along the way, we start to understand the complicated relationships between the dancers, the choreographers and the higher-ups, especially the iron-willed Brigitte, the ballet's artistic director.

We also get a glimpse into the more solitary aspects of the theater, as the costumers painstakingly bead headpieces and janitors ready the auditorium for the audience.

The latter half of the film shows the results of all this preparation - uncut looks at the productions, some of them traditional and others more experimental than you normally associate with the ballet.

It's all mesmerizing to watch, but be forewarned that the in-depth nature and long running time means this doc is best suited to arts aficionados.

"La Danse"

Opens Friday at the Drexel

Grade: B