In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_iphnfiwj5vopnmm1tqt64p9qcck

Citizenfour

Though superlatives can mischaracterize any movie’s qualities, it is not an overstatement, I think, to call “Citizenfour,” Laura Poitras’ film about Edward Snowden, the movie…

Thumb_10687421_10152289281917007_4858446204490388004_o

Private Violence

A look at the complexity of domestic violence, especially when it comes to the difficulty of prosecuting abusers in a court of law, "Private Violence"…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Life Itself Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Dancers

  |  

The idea is not exactly new: The story of a ballet is echoed by the real lives of the people who are dancing in it. But Herbert Ross's "Dancers" easily is the most dim-witted recent example of the genre, using "Giselle" to so little effect that perhaps the only way to save this movie would have been to substitute "Peter and the Wolf."

See if any of this sounds familiar. Mikhail Baryshnikov plays Tony, the greatest male dancer of his age. While rehearsing for a film version of "Giselle" in Italy, he finds himself overtaken by a vague discontent. Things are just not right. Then, one day across a crowded restaurant, he spies the newest member of his company, a 17-year-old American teenager with big eyes and long hair. In a grand gesture, he sends her an entire ice cream cake, and their romance is under way.

So far, the story's not implausible. I know a lot of people who would go to bed for an ice cream cake. What is unacceptable about the movie is its refusal to supply the teenager (Julie Kent) with any human qualities other than hero worship and to assume that she would fall in love with Baryshnikov just because he is a famous man and he wants her to. Doesn't decency require them to at least pretend to have something in common?

The movie is so ineptly structured that maybe it doesn't even matter. The Baryshnikov character lays his usual line on her, something about a tall white tree he saw in his childhood, and meanwhile rehearsals for "Giselle" continue. But this is not even an interesting movie about show business.

Everything I have ever heard about the filming of ballet movies leads me to believe that the set usually resembles Fassbinder's "Beware of a Holy Whore," in which venomous and embittered malcontents hang around the hotel bar telling lies about each other, but not here. On the set of "Giselle," much depends on Long Looks. Baryshnikov's current and former lovers lurk in the wings, looking significantly at him and each other. We read volumes into their gazes, because we have to, and because the movie gives us little else to think about.

One of the best gazers in the movie is Kent, who learns after the magical white-tree story that Baryshnikov has told it to other women - that, indeed, she may not be the only woman in his life. This causes her such distress that she stands in the wings during a dance sequence and provides not one but two Long Looks. We see in her eyes that she is shaken and in despair. If we look closely enough, we see something else. It appears that the editor, William Reynolds, has had to use the same closeup twice.

The girl runs out of the theater. The dance continues. Then there is a search for her. "Call the police!" Baryshnikov cries, and then her jacket is found in the sea, soaking wet. This turns out to be a real mystery after she turns up on land, dry. The movie eventually ends after more dancing. "Dancers" does not provide (a) interesting ballet sequences, (b) a coherent plot, (c) a romance of any description beyond the unsatisfactory requirements of Unrequited Love, or (d) pretty pictures. It has one distinction, though. It is one of the worst movies of the year.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

"1941": An Appreciation and Interview with Bob Gale

An appreciation of "1941" and interview with Bob Gale.

NYFF 2014: Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice”

A review of Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" from the 2014 New York Film Festival.

A free man: L.M. "Kit" Carson, 1941-2014

An appreciation of filmmaker, writer and actor L.M. "Kit" Carson, a singular talent.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus