The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Many documentaries about ballet and its practitioners, even the very best, understandably appeal mainly to a core audience of dance aficionados. Nancy Buirski's mesmerizing, beautifully crafted "Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq" proves a striking exception to that rule. While it does profile the work of brilliant dancer, the film also contains two complex and moving love stories as well an account of a physically devastating tragedy followed by an extraordinary tale of struggle and survival.
Tanaquil le Clercq was a muse and love interest of two of the last century's greatest American choreographers, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Born in Paris in 1929 and raised in privileged, sheltered circumstances in New York, Tanny, as her friends called her, started studying dance as a child and was at Balanchine's School of American Ballet when he discovered her. Though she was only 15, he cast her in lead roles and she quickly became a star, having never served in the corps de ballet.
Her skill as a dancer is evident in the clips director Nancy Buirski provides, but le Clercq was also helped, clearly, by her looks. Tall, svelte and long-legged at a time when most ballerinas were short, she exuded a coltish energy and cut a striking figure on stage. Her face also had a distinctive allure, a mixture of simplicity and understated ethereality, like a more angular Julie Harris with a bit of Lauren Bacall's youthful insouciance.
Already middle-aged when he met her, the Russian-born Balanchine had a history of depending creatively and emotionally on his prima ballerinas. He had married four of them before he met Tanny, and all had eventually left him (rather than the other way around) when it seemed their artistic partnership had run its course. With Tanny, the pattern repeated, but from the testimony of those who knew them, the love on both sides was profound. They married in 1952.