Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Company

Ry is a young dancer for the Jeoffrey Ballet that has just lucked out and been given a chance to become a principle dancer. As she works hard with choreographers and in classes Mr. Antonelli works to complete the season for the Joeffrey and oversees every project they have. As the season moves on the company prepares for new ballets and Ry gets a new boyfriend and balances life with dance.

The Company was one of Robert Altman’s last films and a challenge for him as this is a dance film unlike any I’ve ever seen. What makes The Company so different is the way it is told. More often than not dance film follow almost the same formula as sports films; the young dancer catches someone’s eye, gets a big break and works harder than everyone else until the finale with the giant show that impresses everyone, applause, applause & curtain drop. Instead, The Company is made great because Robert Altman brings Robert Altman to the dance movie formula and makes the film something else entirely.

What Robert Altman does is something I have never seen anyone else successfully do. Altman fully immerses the viewer in the world of his films. He begins his film when the story is already started; there are people, locations and events that we as a viewer don’t know but Altman feels no need to explain them to us. Instead, he drops the audience in as an observer and an active participant; we must pay attention to any and all details in order to get up to speed with where the characters are at in their journey and that mystery in itself is what creates the drawing power of an Altman film. You can’t look away because if you stop paying attention the characters lives will go on without you. This Altman technique is used to beautiful effect in The Company and helps to uncover the elegance, fights, bruises and layers that exists within a dance company.

The Company is also special because of Neve Campbell’s involvement. What most people didn’t know until The Company is that Campbell was a dancer long before she was an actress. As such she actually helped come up with the story for the film, produced the film and starred. Campbell did not need a double for the dance sequences. She trained with the Jeoffrey and every dance her character is in Campbell is dancing herself. It’s a wonderful thing to not have to cut the dance sequences constantly in order to hide the identity of your dancer and it gave Altman the opportunity to make the dances much more organic and realistic so they feel like live sequences that are truly unfolding before you.

This may have been on of Altman’s final films, yet somehow I think this may be one of my favorites. Altman manages to find a sense of realism and grace in chaos that is sorely lacking in most dance films and The Company is better for it.

Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Barbara Turner
Ry: Neve Campbell
Alberto Antonelli: Malcom McDowell
Josh: James Franco


Adam said...

I haven't seen this one yet, but I love Altman's work. You are right on about the way that he drops you into the middle of a pre-existing set of social/interpersonal conditions and then lets you work your own way out. I've always felt like he was saying, "OK, look, I'm going to put you in the middle of all this. You're not going to know what's going on, and you might not be able to understand all these people. Just hold on to my hand and I'll get you to the end."

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