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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No plot, but an outstanding and absorbing spectacle
This film is a visual delight. It enraptures your senses ... even if you find yourself waiting for the story to begin. It is neither a documentary about the life of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet, nor is it conventional fiction. There is little that could be described as a plot. The fascination is in the performance and sense of intimacy Altman creates.
Director Robert...
Published on 29 Dec 2004 by Budge Burgess

versus
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Altman does the ballet world - "I hate pretty!"
This movie is not a documentary, neither does it have a story / narrative driving events. It is an undisputably Altman-esque view of life in a successful ballet company, in this case the Joffrey Ballet Company.

This means that events simply unfold in a matter of fact and realistic way, with characters stumbling over phrases and talking over each other in a way...
Published on 22 Mar 2007 by Mr. Stephen Kennedy


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No plot, but an outstanding and absorbing spectacle, 29 Dec 2004
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Company [DVD] (DVD)
This film is a visual delight. It enraptures your senses ... even if you find yourself waiting for the story to begin. It is neither a documentary about the life of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet, nor is it conventional fiction. There is little that could be described as a plot. The fascination is in the performance and sense of intimacy Altman creates.
Director Robert Altman has a naturalistic style. Working without a plot is not unusual - "Gosforth Park", for instance, has a very fragile structure. He tends, instead, to observe the characters interact, to focus on what makes the characters tick: his 1970 hit, "M*A*S*H", is perhaps the most widely seen example - there are sub-plots ... but no real plot other than survival.
Altman's concern is with interaction. The characters, here, are the dancers in the ballet company. They are artists, they work longer and harder than any other artist, yet they are treated like high school kids - they cram into a locker room to get changed, work hours every day, risk career threatening injury, and earn barely enough to keep a roof over their heads.
Altman portrays the pain - the blisters, bruises, muscle tears, the corns, plasters, bandages, the endless pressure. He makes it clear that the dancers can be expendable - they are rarely consulted about the art they perform, but are often patronised or bullied.
Altman has a critical perspective. The dancers provide a spectacle for an elitist audience - who may have to suffer the inconvenience of rain during an open-air production, but who clearly don't otherwise suffer much for their art. For them, the ballet is a social occasion, one in which they are presented with the seemingly effortless. Even the onstage injury of a dancer is concealed - a substitute takes her place ... and takes the bows at the end.
Altman has an improvisational style in his filming. He's said he wants the audience to pay attention, to work at understanding his movies. If you watch a ballet ... highly stylised, often utterly surreal ... how do you understand what is taking place? Altman makes you work to understand what is going on in this film, to value the performance without the artifice of a plot. This is life as dancers know it!
Neve Campbell's skills are very definitely on show here. She was the driving force behind the film: she co-wrote and co-produced it, and pestered Altman until he agreed to direct. Campbell spent six years at the National Ballet School of Canada; she was a dancer long before she became an actor. She was a cute teenager in "Party Of Five", appeared unflappable in teenage horror movies, but here, she takes on a gruelling, adult role ... and is convincing not only as a dancer, but in her ability to forego celebrity status and blend into the background as a member of the company.
Campbell is just one of the dancers. You are never allowed to see her as a star. The movie is more slice-of-life than a typical Hollywood vehicle for a celebrity cast. Most of the roles are played by actual company members - Campbell and the film crew are the outsiders.
There are minor subplots, but the real concentration is on the hard work, dedication, and humour of the dancers. They smile, their faces stripped of any emotion other than ones called for by the choreographer. Malcolm McDowell gives a potent performance as the sometimes autocratic, sometimes avuncular director, perhaps echoing Altman's reputation as something of a control freak.
The film takes on a documentary quality - the camera leads you in amongst the dancers. You can hear the sound of their feet hitting the stage - crisp little sounds, like pistol shots. You can certainly sense the eroticism of the performance - I've often wondered if classical ballet started as a form of pornography.
The dancers, themselves, deconstruct their art. They parody the role of the director and choreographer, mocking the pretensions of the purists, and revelling in their own skills and vitality. They may be on pain killers and other supplements, may be too busy to have much of a life beyond the company, but they are performers, and they live to dance.
Not a film everyone will enjoy. I'm not a great ballet fan, but this movie captured my imagination and my interest. It is not an easy film to watch. You have to concentrate. But the visual spectacle is utterly absorbing. It's a film you can watch again and again and just ... well, just enjoy as a spectacle. But, if my review has intrigued you enough, I suggest you rent it first.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No plot, but an absorbing and outstanding spectacle, 4 April 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This film is a visual delight. It enraptures your senses ... even if you find yourself waiting for the story to begin. It is neither a documentary about the life of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet, nor is it conventional fiction. There is little that could be described as a plot. The fascination is in the performance and sense of intimacy Altman creates.
Director Robert Altman has a naturalistic style. Working without a plot is not unusual - "Gosforth Park", for instance, has a very fragile structure. He tends, instead, to observe the characters interact, to focus on what makes the characters tick: his 1970 hit, "M*A*S*H", is perhaps the most widely seen example - there are sub-plots ... but no real plot other than survival.
Altman's concern is with interaction. The characters, here, are the dancers in the ballet company. They are artists, they work longer and harder than any other artist, yet they are treated like high school kids - they cram into a locker room to get changed, work hours every day, risk career threatening injury, and earn barely enough to keep a roof over their heads.
Altman portrays the pain - the blisters, bruises, muscle tears, the corns, plasters, bandages, the endless pressure. He makes it clear that the dancers can be expendable - they are rarely consulted about the art they perform, but are often patronised or bullied.
Altman has a critical perspective. The dancers provide a spectacle for an elitist audience - who may have to suffer the inconvenience of rain during an open-air production, but who clearly don't otherwise suffer much for their art. For them, the ballet is a social occasion, one in which they are presented with the seemingly effortless. Even the onstage injury of a dancer is concealed - a substitute takes her place ... and takes the bows at the end.
Altman has an improvisational style in his filming. He's said he wants the audience to pay attention, to work at understanding his movies. If you watch a ballet ... highly stylised, often utterly surreal ... how do you understand what is taking place? Altman makes you work to understand what is going on in this film, to value the performance without the artifice of a plot. This is life as dancers know it!
Neve Campbell's skills are very definitely on show here. She was the driving force behind the film: she co-wrote and co-produced it, and pestered Altman until he agreed to direct. Campbell spent six years at the National Ballet School of Canada; she was a dancer long before she became an actor. She was a cute teenager in "Party Of Five", appeared unflappable in teenage horror movies, but here, she takes on a gruelling, adult role ... and is convincing not only as a dancer, but in her ability to forego celebrity status and blend into the background as a member of the company.
Campbell is just one of the dancers. You are never allowed to see her as a star. The movie is more slice-of-life than a typical Hollywood vehicle for a celebrity cast. Most of the roles are played by actual company members - Campbell and the film crew are the outsiders.
There are minor subplots, but the real concentration is on the hard work, dedication, and humour of the dancers. They smile, their faces stripped of any emotion other than ones called for by the choreographer. Malcolm McDowell gives a potent performance as the sometimes autocratic, sometimes avuncular director, perhaps echoing Altman's reputation as something of a control freak.
The film takes on a documentary quality - the camera leads you in amongst the dancers. You can hear the sound of their feet hitting the stage - crisp little sounds, like pistol shots. You can certainly sense the eroticism of the performance - I've often wondered if classical ballet started as a form of pornography.
The dancers, themselves, deconstruct their art. They parody the role of the director and choreographer, mocking the pretensions of the purists, and revelling in their own skills and vitality. They may be on pain killers and other supplements, may be too busy to have much of a life beyond the company, but they are performers, and they live to dance.
Not a film everyone will enjoy. I'm not a great ballet fan, but this movie captured my imagination and my interest. It is not an easy film to watch. You have to concentrate. But the visual spectacle is utterly absorbing. It's a film you can watch again and again and just ... well, just enjoy as a spectacle. But, if my review has intrigued you enough, I suggest you rent it first.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Altman does the ballet world - "I hate pretty!", 22 Mar 2007
By 
Mr. Stephen Kennedy "skenn1701a" (Doha, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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This movie is not a documentary, neither does it have a story / narrative driving events. It is an undisputably Altman-esque view of life in a successful ballet company, in this case the Joffrey Ballet Company.

This means that events simply unfold in a matter of fact and realistic way, with characters stumbling over phrases and talking over each other in a way that gradually convinces you this is a peek into real life rather than a `movie'. If ballet, in particular modern ballet, fascinates you, and you like Altman's style of direction, then this is the movie for you.

Having said that, if ballet does NOT fascinate, you may well be left cold by a movie which has no story to tell, but rather purports to show real life instead.

The performances are fantastic, as you would expect from Robert Altman. Malcolm McDowell is a treat as the ballet director.. a role that Roger Ebert astutely observed is very like Altman himself, overseeing the creative process with one eye always on the budget, and those around him subject to his acerbic put downs, or throwaway praises. More than once he shouts out `You're a genius!' while simultaneously walking out of the room and already thinking about something or someone else. During the ballet training, you can feel the dancers groan as he interrupts shouting out `What are you doing! You made it pretty! I HATE pretty!'.

Neve Campbell was the driving force behind getting the movie made. She trained in Canada as a ballet dancer, and put in 4 months of training to get in shape for this role. It was she who persuaded Altman to make the movie, after his initial disinterest. This makes it all the more remarkable how un star-like a vehicle this is for her. Her character is just one character within the company and never overshadows the pace and style of the movie.

What we get then, is snippets of real lives and loves of all the players of a ballet company, interspersed with occasionally lengthy scenes of the ballets themselves. The performances certainly are convincing, but the end result is an oddly dispassionate but intimate view into the world of ballet.

This is not Altman at his best. I find he works best when there IS a plot and story, which distracts you from the fact that the movie is really about the people not the story. Such was the case in his previous movie, Gosford Park. Here, what you see is what you get and there are no layers to unwrap. Therefore, whether you enjoy the movie or not will depend greatly on your interest in the creative process on display, and in modern ballet itself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Visually stunning, ultimately tedious, 18 May 2008
By 
This review is from: The Company [DVD] (DVD)
This appears to have been a film that was made to be much longer and has been cut to within an inch of its life. The dancing is spectacular, but the plot is scant. There are so few actual scenes that it is impossible to engage with any of the characters. Many of the "scenes" seem to have been improvised and tell you very little. What plot remains has to be gathered from the odd word or raised eyebrow. It is impossible to describe this as an inside view into the background of the ballet company.

There are many, MANY better ways to spend an hour and forty seven minutes of your life. Disappointing in the extreme.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, 18 Jun 2012
By 
schumann_bg - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Company [DVD] (DVD)
I liked this film, its overlaying of fiction and reality, the beauty of the staged numbers, some of which are superbly imaginative and colourful (the last one, for instance, with its fabulous fairy-tale vision that the whole film has been building towards, beautifully cross-cut by James Franco tripping across the stage, lost, with his flowers ... ) Franco and Neve Campbell make a very alluring couple, and Malcolm MacDowell gets the manner of the not very likeable director who is no doubt quite true to life. This is where the film scores over a documentary - not only that James Franco wouldn't be in it, but that it would inevitably present a more airbrushed picture in one way or another. Here you see how hard it is to be a dancer, and that bright orange head at the end swallowing up the dancing figures suggests a metaphor for how the profession treats them. Yet at the same time the whole thing is teeming with life and colour: the ambiguity of the world it shows and an exploration of the nature of film - and of the stage - seamlessly blended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential viewing for the balletomane, 11 Aug 2011
By 
Cherry Radford (Brighton, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Company [DVD] (DVD)
Essential viewing for the balletomane! Naturalistic - almost a documentary - with wonderful dancing and beautifully understated acting. Love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars storyline???, 29 Nov 2007
This review is from: The Company [DVD] (DVD)
Personally i was very disappointed with this film, i was expecting at least a decent sotryline which would carry the film along and also a lot more classic ballet instead of just modern dance...
i thought the film was lacking in direction and was just a little bit to abstract to sit down and enjoy. definately a film you only need/want to see just once. If you want to see it just to say you have or for a class or something i would recommend renting it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice idea but ..., 2 Nov 2004
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This review is from: The Company [DVD] (DVD)
Nice idea to go behind the scene of a ballet company. The viewer is there with the dancers when they practise and later, when the show is on.
However, the pace is rather slow, there are hardly any scenes of classic ballets at all, just modern choreographies.
Half way through the film I wondered whether it had a plot.
Where's the excitment of "Center Stage"?
I enjoyed the making of featurette more than the film.
3 stars for the director and dancers.
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2.0 out of 5 stars This is for hardcore dance fans only, not just for light fun, 11 April 2014
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This review is from: The Company [DVD] (DVD)
found it difficult to understand and boring to watch, just wasn't entertaining enough to catch my attention for long enough.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great dancing...but boring film!, 9 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Company [DVD] (DVD)
If you love dance, then watch this on FFwd and just press play every time you get to a dance section. The Joffrey ballet are great, and they've included lengthy dance excepts. Overall however, the story line is drab, boring, and predictable, so if you're not crazy about dance give it a miss!
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