The Company ~ (USA, 2003) ~ DVD

Probably one of the few Altman films I’ve never seen. It has the ambient sound-track that became an Altman trademark, as well as his off-the-cuff feel. Of course, all of these things are what makes audiences uncomfortable with most of his work. But for me, he’s a master director who entertains me at least. The Company is about the world of ballet, as filtered through Robert Altman’s unique perspective.  The cinematography (Andrew Dunn) is exceptional, with stunning overhead shots and use of unique framing. The camera seems to be always in the right place to capture the beauty of the dance. The great Van Dyke Parks offers some original music, and the rest of the soundtrack is very classy.

I’m not that familiar with Neve Campbell (other than her part in the Scream franchise yes “5” is in the works)), but she’s quite good here, as is the always dependable Malcolm McDowell, as the ballet company director. 127 Hours James Franco is here as well, in one of his earliest roles. The thing with actors in Altman films is that he makes them so comfortable in their skin, that they all  project a naturalness that is quite an aid to believability. It was important to show the rehearsals and how they unfolded, as well as the finished, performing sequences. They melded into each other quite nicely.

Altman was obviously fascinated with this particular neighborhood (a ballet company) of our world, and his awe and fascination take hold of the viewer. I’m not a huge fan of ballet (although the ballet here is modern), but I enjoyed the look, especially behind the scenes, quite a lot. There’s a wonderful scene of an outside performance, during which a thunderstorm breaks out. The audience doesn’t move, finally popping up umbrellas when the rain begins to be too much. Someone is sent backstage to make sure that the floor is not too wet to continue. It’s ok, and the troop persists. The performance is a big success. Triumphant, despite the odds arrayed against them. A metaphor for the career of Robert Altman.

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