The Company Robert Altman

The Company Robert Altman
After watching The Company, Robert Altman's latest contribution to the film canon, you can't help but think that the life of a ballerina is no picnic. The Company in question here is the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Though the dancers may be bathed in ethereal light, the rarefied air we think they breathe is turned on its head here. The offstage life that Barbara Turner's screenplay focuses on is harsh, filled with all the stuff we see in ordinary life: bad food, poverty, too many cigarettes and crappy relationships. The lack of glamour in Altman's The Company is an aesthetic choice. He demands that the audience focuses on the most important thing: the movement and how it transforms the people who are performing it. And it is refreshing to see actual motion in a motion picture. But there are moments, like halfway through the film, when you begin to question the approach. The characters are mostly spectres when they aren't performing, which may be the point. The exceptions, of course, are its two leads. Malcolm McDowell's Antonio Antonelli, as the company's director, is bitchy good here, imbuing every speech he has with a sense of overwrought self-importance. His "babies" (the word he uses to describe the dancers), you get the feeling, are not the only ones who do as he commands. And Neve Campbell is fantastic, provided she doesn't open her mouth. Her Ry is best appreciated when she is on stage. Off-stage she is mostly, well, boring. Campbell, it must be said, was the driving force behind the film — it was she who helped flesh out the script based upon her experiences at Canada's famed National Ballet School. She also trained for two years with the Joffrey in order to render her performance more credible and it is on the stage where she shines. Characters and script play second fiddle to the dancing in this work and if you can stay awake long enough it can be a real joy. Dance enthusiasts will be pleased to see those segments choreographed by Quebecois genius Robert Desrosiers. (Mongrel Media)