No mean feet
"The Company," written by and starring "Scream" star and capable dancer Neve Campbell, is a colorful look inside the workings of a leading ballet company with eye-catching work by some leading choreographers.
By LORI ORTIZ
Opening on Christmas Day, "The Company" is full of color and substance. The feast of fine performances is a holiday treat, though it isn't a feel-good film. In fact, It could be the perfect antidote in a Disney season.
Neve Campbell passes superbly as a dancer, having studied for years as a child. The actress trained with the Joffrey two years for her role as "Ry." To her proud mother, played by Marilyn Dodds Frank, she is a "ballerina ... just like [she] always wanted to be." She dances Lar Lubovitch's sentimental "My Funny Valentine" with passion, grace, and a little too much tension. In "Company" Lubovitch plays himself and moviegoers get to watch this choreographer in action. Finally Ry and Domingo Rubio dance the pas de deux on a storm-drenched outdoor stage. The camera's wide vistas take in the Chicago audience's steadfast devotion as umbrellas flip up. Director and lighting staff build the drama of the predicament as if it were the storm around "The Bounty," while the show goes on.
|Directed by: Robert Altman.|
Written by: Neve Campbell, Barbara Turner.
Cast: Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, James Franco, Barbara E. Robertson, William Dick, Susie Cusack, Marilyn Dodds Frank, John Lordan, Mariann Mayberry, Rick Peeples, Yasen Peyankov, Davis C. Robertson, Deborah Dawn, John Gluckman, David Gombert, Suzanne L. Prisco, Domingo Rubio, Emily Patterson, Maia Wilkins, Sam Franke, Trinity Hamilton, Julianne Kepley, Valerie Robin, Deanne Brown, Michael Smith, Matthew Roy Prescott, Lar Lubovitch, Robert Desrosiers, Charthel Arthur, Cameron Basden, Mark Goldweber, Pierre Lockett, Adam Sklute.
Cinematography: Andrew Dunn.
Costumes by: Susan Kaufmann.
Related links: Official site
With Barbara Turner, Ry was written by and for Campbell. She relates coolly with her dancer co-workers. It's a dog-eat-dog world where if you're wounded or complain, you're out. Ry has just been jilted by a boyfriend in the company so it's understandable she would skulk in a pool hall where she picks up Josh (James Franco). The mating scene yields a devotee who brings flowers to her performances. She lives in a posh apartment with a $25,000 bathroom set off behind a shoji screen, and she works nights as a cocktail waitress. The inconsistencies add up to director Robert Altman's view of postmodern life and art. Vignettes of rehearsals, performances, and afterparties are consistent with the clich backstage views in his films like "Prt a Porter," the more acerbic 1994 critique of the fashion industry.|
Alberto Antonelli, "Mr. A," is the company director. Played with sharp gusto by the great Malcolm McDowell, the character is fashioned loosely on Joffrey co-founder Gerald Arpino. Could Balanchine's Mr. B have inspired the nickname? Mr. A's views however are no doubt the views of Robert Altman. "I hate pretty," he says more than once. McDowell gives a relaxed and compelling performance, a tongue-in-cheek deliverance of the clich lines. Altman's clichs press his wry ironic view. Who would think there was negativity or humor to be gleaned from the Sleeping Beauty?
He sticks to the modern ballets though, choreographed by Nikolais, Arpino, Laura Dean, and others. The gorgeous dancing of the Joffrey performers in the gaze of Andrew Dunn's cinematography makes a marriage of film and dance that is unparalleled in documented dance. There is something for everyone for this reviewer, the "White Widow" by Momix's Moses Pendleton and Cynthia Quinn was a revelation, set to music of Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch.|
Robert Desrosiers' ballet "Blue Snake" weaves in and out of "The Company" as we follow it from spiel to premiere. "Budget," Mr. A reminds him at the outset; but the ballet is a phantasmagoria that is like Chinese New Year's at the Bat Cave. The theme is reptilian, but zebras also abound. At the premiere, the audience wisely applauds at the steamy opening of the enormous snakemouth and at the entrance of overstuffed costumes that seem to dance by themselves. The dance gives us all we could want, but did we want it all?
During the rehearsal of "White Widow," Mr. A asks that the dancer feel the vastness of the space, while she is contorted and wrapped in the ropes of a swing. The world of ballet, Altman seems to say, is about the reality of the impossible.
|DECEMBER 25, 2003|
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