La Danse, a documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet by Fredrick Wiseman [his 38th film] is one of the longest films I've ever sat through. Over about two and three-quarters of an hour, there was no narration or form, no progressive story, no arc of action, just footage, sometimes a bit repetitious taken at the Paris Opera Ballet over about a year's time. There were wonderful dancers working on roles, there were a few performance sequences, there were many shots of the artistic director doing her daily work, there were seamstresses and cleaning staff, make-up artists and hair dressers, shots of Paris's rooftops, even a shot of a bee keeper on top of the Opera building, and at a lowest level of the place odd beasties in the water of a sewer or cistern.
The dancing was magnificent, even when they were rehearsing -- of course the sense of getting a glance at how ballet is made, how choreographers work with dancers was wonderful. The formlessness of the film was irritating, I expected it to lead to a logical ending. It did not. Quite a few people felt it was too long and left before it was over. I could understand their frustration and yet I did not want to leave for fear I would miss something interesting. And, yes, I would have, for it was all interesting, just frustratingly formless. I cannot believe that this formlessness was a part of his message, if there was a message beyond a vision of how art is made.
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