- 23 Apr 10
If you’re a Wiseman or ballet fan, this is heavenly near beta-wave cinema.
It’s difficult to argue with Fred Wiseman. For more than 40 years, the great documentarian has defined his medium and milieu with painstaking enquiries into the nature, structure and psychology of organisation.
A patient, scientific filmmaker, he shoots schools, hospitals and prisons for months (and sometimes years) and edits each finished film down from hundreds of hours of footage. In the post-reality TV era, his work reminds us that fly-on-the-wall filmmaking loses all meaning if your subjects are mugging at the camera. There are no such performances in Wiseman pictures; the director never uses a frame until they’ve all forgotten that he’s there.
His methodology has not changed since Titicut Follies, his 1967 film about the treatment of inmates at a Massachusetts facility and a massive influence on Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. Thus La Danse, Mr. Wiseman’s thorough investigation into the structure of the Paris Opera Ballet is defined by its monastic detachment.
Don’t expect the camera to latch on to some blossoming ballerina on her way to a Prima gig. Do expect board meetings, rehearsal and building maintenance. Every aspect of the organisation is noted and filed away. During one sequence we even watch plaster dry, paint presumably being unavailable at the time.
If you’re a Wiseman or ballet fan, this is heavenly near beta-wave cinema. Non-aesthetes, however, are probably better off watching their new Avatar DVDs or monster trucks or whatever it is they do.