13 March 2004

Currently Creaming my Panties over and Impatiently Waiting for...

...The Company, Robert Altman's latest movie when it comes out here on the 26th. Having purposely repressed the memory of looking up the Italian premier date ("MARCH 26TH?! Shit that's like 3 months away!"), I saw publicity posters up yesterday and immediately scurried off to look up (again) the opening date.

Granted I've only see the internet trailers, but already I am impressed with the clips of the dancing. Ballet* is damn hard to catch on film, be it still or moving film. I think one of the greatest photographers to ever capture the movement of ballet in silver gelatin print(?) was Max Waldman, and I like a few others that I can't remember off the top of my head. But filming ballet? Pfffft. I can think of precisely ZERO films (even performance films of the greatest dancers and companies in the world) that truly capture ballet.

You'd think that moving film would be more conducive to filming ballet than stills. Bzzzt. Wrong. You get either:

  • The dead center, back of the house (ie theatre), doesn't-move wide angle shot, which is admitedly used for archival purposes and is the lesser evil of filming dance. At least you get the whole picture, if not the subtle nuances
  • The sudden zoom-in-and-hold-and-hold-and-hold.... on the ballerina's face. Usually in crucial emotive moments. Highly irritating. See, dancers are like actors, but instead of using nuances of voice, face and gesture to convey emotion, they use nuances of face, body, and continuous movement. So seeing just the face shot is like experiencing a performance of a great actor strictly through the radio. Or more aptly put in terms of this blog, it's like sex without orgasm - ultimately unsatisfying.
  • The focusing in on the prima ballerina and the prima ballerina only while the chorus is behind her. If the choreographer wanted only focus on the ballerina without the subtle counterpoint and/or atmosphere of the chorus, it would be a solo, asswipe.
  • MTV type editing. This one is punishable by the 8th circle of hell. It combines all of the above into 5 second blips taped together. Here's the feet. Here's the face. Here's the ballerina. Here's some random shot of another part of the stage. etc. etc. etc.

A lot of the above stems from A) a lack of experiencing live dance performances and B) a lack of knowledge about the particular choreography and/or development of the piece.

Anywho, I find it sadly humorous that I will probably find it easier to drag someone with me to the cinema to see this film than it would be to drag them with me to see a live performance. Maybe afterwards I'll find it easier to do the latter.

*I specify ballet as jazz, modern and even tap are all slightly more organic and less structured than your typical "white" ballet (ie Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Giselle, Romeo & Juliet, etc.)

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