La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet (image 1)

This superb, engrossing piece manages to dissect both an institution and an art form with extraordinary skill and beauty.

Kate Stables, Sight & Sound

Screened as part of NZIFF 2010

La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet 2009

La Danse: Le Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris

Directed by Frederick Wiseman

A portrait of one of the world’s great ballet companies by one of the world’s great documentarians. “Sumptuous in its length and graceful in its rhythm… this is one of the finest dance films ever made.” — NY Times

France / USA In English and French with English subtitles
158 minutes

Producers

Françoise Gazio
,
Pierre Olivier Bardet
,
Frederick Wiseman

Photography

John Davey

Editors

Frederick Wiseman
,
Valérie Pico

Choreography

Wayne McGregor
,
Sasha Waltz
,
Mats Ek
,
Rudolf Nureyev
,
Pierre Lacotte
,
Pina Bausch
,
Angelin Preljocaj

Sound

Frederick Wiseman
,
Hervé Guyader
,
Emmanuel Croset

Music

Joby Talbot
,
Deru
,
Hector Berlioz
,
Johann Sebastian Bach
,
Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky
,
Edouard M. Deldevez
,
Ludwig Minkus
,
Christoph W. Gluck
,
Mauro Lanza

With

Brigitte Lefèvre
,
Wayne McGregor
,
Benjamin Pech
,
Marie-Agnès Gillot
,
Pierre Lacotte
,
Emilie Cozette
,
Wilfried Romoli
,
Aurélie Dupont
,
Laetitia Pujol

Festivals

Venice, Toronto 2009

Elsewhere

In La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet, his 36th documentary in more than 40 years, Frederick Wiseman takes his camera into the stately and elegant Palais Garnier in Paris, observing rehearsals, staff meetings and, finally, performances of seven dances, including classics like ‘The Nutcracker’ and spiky new work by younger choreographers. To say that the film, sumptuous in its length and graceful in its rhythm, is a feast for ballet lovers is to state the obvious and also to sell Mr Wiseman’s achievement a bit short. Yes, this is one of the finest dance films ever made, but there’s more to it than that… The substance of Mr Wiseman’s particular genius is the way it transfixes you with the inner workings of an institution you may not otherwise care about.” — A.O. Scott, NY Times

“Like all of his documentaries, La Danse forgoes voiceover and identifying intertitles, allowing for spectators’ full immersion into the action… Roughly two-thirds of La Danse is devoted to rehearsal and performance, shot in deeply satisfying long takes of gorgeous young men and women starting, stopping, listening, questioning, repeating, perfecting. The rest is behind the scenes, and as Wiseman shows empty corridors, the many types of grains available in the cafeteria, sewing rooms, and the nightly clean-up of the 2,200-seat theater, the stealth star of La Danse emerges: Brigitte Lefèvre, the company’s tremendously composed, elegant artistic director. Shown in a meeting discussing the finer distinctions between ‘benefactors’ and ‘big benefactors’… Lefèvre nimbly tackles the potential messiness – but absolute necessity – of crass commerce fueling high art.” — Melissa Anderson, Village Voice

“There's something to be said for the sensuality of celluloid when ingrained with the grace, beauty and vitality of world-class dancers in motion... the sheer quality and captivating nature of Wiseman's film demands that it be seen on the big screen.” — Tim Wong, The Lumiere Reader