The Company is a movie about dance, made for dancers. Feel excluded?
As a dancer myself I realize you might be, because the film has no real plot, dialogue or character development since everything centres around…dance. Oh, and Showgirls it is not.
What you will see is a quasi-documentary that explores the quiet yet constant drama of everyday life in a ballet company.
Sub-plots and secondary characters aren’t introduced, and invariably fade away without further mention. They are simply part of a larger body; the company.
The film’s focus on the collective rather than the individual nature of the artistic medium is a fresh perspective. The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago therefore becomes The Company’s central character and star, which is made up of professional dancers, musicians, teachers and staff, with a few actors carefully concealed throughout.
Neve Campbell, as aspiring ballerina Ry, impressively performs in all of the film’s numerous dance scenes thanks to years of National Ballet training in her youth. In fact, Campbell does more dancing than acting.
Malcolm McDowell plays the dismissive and arrogant artistic director, Alberto Antonelli, with camp credibility. As an aging patriarch, he nicknames his dancers “babies” in a more condescending than caring tone.
James Franco weakly plays Josh, Ry’s love interest and the ballet tribe’s only “outsider.”
A handful of tried and true characters such as the Stage Mom, Aging Ballerina, and Starving Ingenue Artist, are also added to the mix, but all manage to override their respective stereotypes.
Melodramatic behind-ballerina back stabbing and eating disorders are left out, while darker issues such as AIDS are only mentioned in passing.
Instead, the dancer’s private anguish is juxtaposed amidst the flurry of confusion during classes and rehearsals. Snapped tendons, aging bodies and artistic suffocation are a painful reality of the dancers artistic process. But the show must go on and the grand illusion of dance must certainly stay intact. True to form, the performances are dazzling and offer a reminder of why these dancers endure so much for their art.
Behind the scenes and watching from the wings is director Robert Altman, The Company’s true choreographer. Altman exposes the viewer to the intimacy of dance from a myriad of angles, anything but the spectator’s stale front row seat. He draws your attention to the arch of a foot, or the curve of a back, and tries to capture the minute details that become lost in movement’s wake.
Andrew Dunn’s photography balances the natural studio lighting with the stage’s bolder shots of color while weaving around the performers on stage.
As for the dancing itself? One of the most beautiful scenes is a pas de deux performed during an open air evening concert to the strains of “My Funny Valentine.” While an electrical storm starts up, the dancing becomes as sexually charged as the skies overhead, lit up with lightening. The audience, both in the film and the theatre, sat enraptured