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The Company - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Robert Altman audio commentary; 'The Passion of Dance' featurette; 'The Making of The Company' featurette.

ROBERT Altman continues to operate as one of the most respected directors in the industry, and if the US reaction to his latest, The Company, is anything to go by, he has not lost his touch.

Neve Campbell stars as a talented ballet dancer, whose boyfriend (James Franco) and other interests distract her from becoming a principal performer in her ballet company, run by the demanding Alberto (Malcolm McDowell).

But what sounds a little tedious, appears to be another of Altman’s masterpieces.

The director’s vision for the film is described as ‘an extremely intimate one’, given that he intends to show viewers the difficult daily work, the intense pressures of performance, the richly textured behaviours of the dancers and the sheer beauty of dance itself.

A labour of love for both Altman and Campbell (who produces), The Company was shot in an unprecedented way, using the complete co-operation of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

Screenwriter, Barbara Turner (Pollack), spent over two years on and off with the Joffrey, observing and writing, and it is the Joffrey dancers who constitute the core of Altman’s ensemble.
Indeed, only former Scream star, Campbell, who was once part of the National Ballet School of Canada, is not a member of the Joffrey, such was the determination to make things as authentic as possible.

For Campbel, especially, The Company marks the culmination of a long-held dream to create a nuanced and realistic film about a world for which she has deep and abiding affection, and she worked intensively with the Joffrey while preparing for the role, and performs all of her own dancing.

The result is, according to Altman, ‘a love letter to artists who work in this singularly difficult and universally expressive medium, to the people who make the performance possible, and to dance itself’.

US reaction

Widespread acclaim greeted the US release of The Company as part of the busy Christmas schedule.

The New York Post, for instance, wrote that ‘Altman presents a fly-on-the-wall insight into the lives of a group of people whose public face is one of unadulterated grace and beauty - but whose private existence is as disorderly as anyone's’.

While the Hollywood Reporter described it as ‘a wonderfully vivid and engaging theatrical experience’.

And the New York Times stated that ‘Robert Altman's new film, which follows a Chicago-based dance troupe through a few months of its regular season, is enjoyably lithe and droll’.

The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, noted that ‘the film achieves that poetry of motion and lyrical delight musical films always strive for but rarely capture’.

While the Los Angeles Times opined that it ‘makes the world of ballet, seen by so many as rarefied, accessible and exciting, a rigorous art that yields breathtaking results’.

Variety, meanwhile, observed that ‘Altman takes an elegant, appealingly unemphatic look at the world of ballet’.

And the New York Daily News wrote that ‘Altman's reverence for ballet, respect for the dancing life, and even his voyeuristic view of the ballerinas' bodies carry the viewer along effortlessly’.

Of the few negative notices, Village Voice wrote that it is ‘essentially a doodle interrupted by nouveau ballet performances, the entire contraption assembled to please the ego of Neve Campbell’.

And E! Online concluded that, ‘it’s just that for a work of 'fiction,' it seems more like a boring PBS documentary’.

But Newsday concludes this round-up in emphatic fashion, by stating that ‘the dancing is fantastic; we get glimpses of the ballet dancer's life, the extra jobs, the injuries, the sex, the noise, the heartbreak and the egos, but the drama in The Company is all in the legs and the feet’.

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