DOCUMENTARY LA DANSE (LE BALLET DE L’OPERA DE PARIS) (PG) 158min ●●●●● Veteran documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman specialises in capturing bodies caught up in a process of metamorphosis. In Titicut Follies he gave us the contortions of psychiatric patients and in Highschool, the awkward gestures of the adolescent. In La Danse, Wiseman returns to familiar territory (the American Ballet Theatre is also the subject of his film Ballet made in 1993). He takes us inside the hallowed halls of the world-renowned Paris Opera Ballet and offers the viewer a privileged insight into the hard-won flawlessness of the ballet dancer’s body. He captures both the obsessive perfectionism of the dancers in rehearsal and the indefinable, fleeting magic of those intense moments spent on stage. Wiseman is also a director interested in power, politics and machinations within institutions and hierarchies and La Danse is classic Wiseman. The viewer is taken into the artistic director’s meetings with sponsors, corporate clients and disgruntled dancers. Every element of this
organisation is observed in close detail – even the cleaners.
La Danse is at once the most intimate film Wiseman has made, as well as his most grand and sublime. The ease with which the director moves from ballet as ‘business’ to dance as ‘art form’ is the mark of a filmmaker working at the top of his game. The film is both epic in length and scope. Viewers
who are unfamiliar with Wiseman’s non-didactic approach to documentary filmmaking (notoriously, this director has always eschewed patronising ‘voice- overs’) may be thrown off-balance by his privileging of the powers of observation. Which is to say that this is intelligent filmmaking and Wiseman is respectful of his audience: he gives us the tools to look anew at both the banal and extraordinary, but does not dictate what we must or should think about what we see.
La Danse is also, arguably, the most beautiful of
Wiseman’s films; a pas de deux set to the accompaniment of a single cello provides a memorable tingle up the spine for this viewer. (Anna Rogers) ■ Filmhouse, Edinburgh Mon 3–Sun 9 May; Cameo, Edinburgh, Sun 9 & Tue 11 May.
DRAMA/ROMANCE THE LAST SONG (PG) 107min ●●●●●
The meteoric rise to tween fame of Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana has paralleled the rising popularity of writer Nicholas Sparks (A Walk To Remember, The Notebook), so having Sparks create a vehicle specifically for Billy Ray’s daughter must have seemed like a sure-fire bet for Disney. The Last Song is, however, a rather squelchy attempt to make an ingénue grow up in public.
Jobbing TV director Julie Anne Robinson brings a bland TV movie sheen to Sparks’ predictable story about initially unforgiving malcontent Ronnie Miller (Cyrus), who travels South with her little brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) to stay with absentee father Steve (Greg Kinnear). As with Sparks’ Dear John, a chance meeting on the beach with a local hunk Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth) leads to a stuttering romance, before a convenient tragedy brings them back together.
Whereas Lasse Hallstrom improbably elicited decent performances from Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum to add emotional depth to Dear John, Robinson singularly fails to do the same for Hemsworth and Cyrus, the latter’s toothy grin misapplied to scenes in which she’s supposedly grieving. The result is a soppy dirge tailored only for Montana die-hards. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 30 Apr.
THRILLER/HORROR THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (18) 100min ●●●●●
The debut feature of British writer-director J Blakeson begins in bravura fashion. Wordlessly two men steal a transit van, purchase tools, and set about transforming an empty flat into a fortified cell, complete with soundproofing. The plan of these two ex-cons, fortyish Vic (Eddie Marsan) and twentysomething Danny (Martin Compston), is to kidnap Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), the daughter of a wealthy businessman, and keep her tied up at their bolt-hole while they demand a ransom. Alice, however, refuses to meekly accept her fate. A pared-down three-hander, restricted almost entirely to one stylised setting, The Disappearance of Alice Creed recalls the treacherous back-stabbings and claustrophobic environment of Shallow Grave. ‘I don’t want a narrative’ barks Vic at his accomplice Danny, whom he has earlier warned against ‘thinking too much’. In turn, Blakeson conjures up all manner of dramatic revelations and double-crosses, requiring the suspension of our disbelief at his story’s plausibility. The power dynamics amongst the trio are continually shifting, as roles are reversed and individual identities prove illusory. Smartly shot in windscreen on digital video, and showcasing a trio of fine performances, this never quite escapes the feel of a generic exercise: the actions of the characters here reveal the strings of the puppet-master screenwriter, but commendable nevertheless. (Tom Dawson) ■ Selected release from Fri 30 Apr. See profile, index.
42 THE LIST 29 Apr–13 May 2010