featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Film Review, 7-24: Altman Introduces "The Company"
A Valentine to Dance

by Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung

NEW YORK -- "The Company," a film directed by Robert Altman, is produced by actress Neve Campbell, among others. She is also credited with Barbara Turner on the story. Campbell stars as Ry, a member of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, whose company members also appear in the film. James Franco plays Josh, Ry's love interest, a sous-chef who works as hard as she does (she moonlights as a waitress in a goth nightclub), and who shows his affection by cooking her meals. The film could've been an embarrassing vanity project for Campbell, who dances her own scenes surprisingly well. Between the parts chosen for her to dance and the editing, she'll be plausible to the untrained eye. (She has studied since the age of six and trained intensely for a couple of years.) "The Company," a well-made glimpse at a life in dance, may enlighten some about a rather exotic existence. For others familiar with such a lifestyle, if it doesn't shed light on anything revelatory, it at least lovingly immortalizes some beautiful dancing.

Campbell performs "My Funny Valentine," a charming duet by Lar Lubovitch choreographed for ABT; different renditions of the Richard Rodgers song run throughout the film, underscoring Campbell's scrunch-nosed charm. We see intriguing performance shots from all angles and distances. The numerous close-ups show the intensity of performing, yet they also make apparent how artificial it all is. Unfortunately, the work chosen as the finale -- "Blue Snake," choreographed by Robert Desrosiers in 1985 for the National Ballet of Canada and commissioned by then-director Erik Bruhn -- could easily be mistaken for a spoof on Cirque du Soleil, complete with outlandish costumes and a smoke-spewing, grunting Olmec monster that consumes dancers. The viewers who actually find artistic merit in "Blue Snake" will probably not have much familiarity with the Joffrey, which is lucky for the company -- the number of dance fans it wins will probably lose out to those it alienates.

"The Company" flaunts Andrew Dunn's breathtaking cinematography, indulging in lengthy pure dance scenes of Joffrey repertory. Altman leaves in sounds of footfalls, including the satisfying chunky thuds of toe shoes on the stage. A scene revolving around a holiday party "talent show" not only gives us a sense of involvement by satirizing scenes and characters we've just seen, but it pokes fun at the theatricality of dance while reminding us of how precious the real thing can be.

The film treats the frugal lifestyle of some of the dancers, a bunch of whom sleep flop-house style in one generous dancer's living room. (In contrast, Campbell's small apartment has a spa-like bathroom where she takes candle-lit soaks.) We also witness the hard work of rehearsals, the ruthless competition for roles, and the complex intertwinings of the company members' relationships. Malcolm McDowell plays Alberto Antonelli, the company's artistic director ("Mr. A, " based on Gerald Arpino) whose omnipotence veers from paternal to tyrannical and who fondly calls everyone "babies." His performance raises the quality of this film immeasurably. Ultimately, the show must go on in the face of financial hardship, injuries, even inclement weather. Performance is a allegory for life, which we continue to live despite what it throws at us. "The Company" is is slated for a December release by Sony Pictures Classics.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home