La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet

Frederick Wiseman is celebrated for his incisive and wide-ranging explorations of complex institutions, from schools, hospitals, and welfare offices to the American Ballet Theatre and the Comédie Française. His latest documentary follows a series of rehearsals and performances at the Paris Opera Ballet. Observing great dancers like Agnès Letestu and Nicolas Le Riche in works choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev, Pina Bausch, and others, the film also explores the administration and behind-the-scenes effort that make the performances possible. Wiseman “haunts the stairways, rehearsal rooms, and watery subterranean corridors of the Palais Garnier (the Ballet's home), and we feel that we have become, with him, phantoms of the opera. . . . (He films) the choreographers and dancers . . . not in the manner of the commercial cinema, where bodies are broken up into threshing limbs, but in full frame, top to bottom, with space around them, so we can see the incredible things they are capable of as well as, inevitably, their mistakes, missteps, and gradual improvements. . . . It's a joyous experience to see an institution in full flower” (David Denby, New Yorker).

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