The Company Robert Altman

Director Robert Altman's The Company thankfully resists the melodramatic dance flick formula — plucky girl chases her dreams, falls in love and bops around to chart-toppers — and instead presents an unromanticised plié-by-plié account of top tier dancers in a professional ballet company. Almost a vignette-style documentary, due to Altman's detached narrative approach, the film concentrates on process rather than product. But without much actual plot to support this idea, the artists at times become a blur of muscles in spandex. Neve Campbell, a former student at the National Ballet of Canada, initiated the production of The Company as co-producer, story creator and star. And while she's not an overtly charismatic actor, her demure restraint is well-suited to the ballet. She holds her own with the real dancers, played by members of the acclaimed Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, particularly when we learn that she suffered from a broken rib throughout filming (the only major revelation in the Altman/Campbell commentary). Even though she does chase her prima ballerina dreams and enjoys a "pas de deux" with "it" boy James Franco, as the title implies, her character Ry is refreshingly not the primary focus. The Company's performance scenes are ultimately the main draw, and the choice of filming in high definition video, a first for Altman and cinematographer Andrew Dunne, allows for multiple cameras, crisp visuals and lingering takes. Choreographers Gerald Arpino (Joffrey's real-life artistic director, upon whom Malcolm McDowell bases his sufficiently snippy role as troupe leader), Lar Lubovitch and Canadian Robert Desrosiers soon emerge as the true stars, especially in the 35-minute montage of each piece featured in the film. The jaw-dropping talent of the dancers is also briefly highlighted in a featurette and an additional scene, aptly titled "Show Off." Plus: "making of" featurette, trailers. (Columbia TriStar)