Thank you, Robert Altman. Coming fast on the heels of one of the worst moviegoing years of recent memory, The Company appears like a wondrous beacon of light. (It even trumps Altman protégé Alan Rudolph's clear-eyed ode to middle class challenges, The Secret Lives of Dentists.) Altman casts his gaze upon the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago: their days and nights, their strict regime and straight-ahead pursuit of artistic expression, and the grueling physical toll of stretching their bodies to the limit. Opening with a modern dance number with performers in skin-tight costumes racing across the stage with multi-colored banners, The Company is like a direct appeal to the heart and mind, to which I can only exclaim, "Wonderful!" and "Beautiful!" It's a reminder of what cinema can do, and the poetry of the dancer's movements is corresponded to with Altman's visual panache, his use of vivid colors, his vividly imaginative framing.
It shames flashy movies like The Matrix sequels, which adopt surface style and frenetic movement but lack sheer, sumptuous vision. Altman's movie isn't just a pretty sheen ("I hate pretty!" snaps Malcolm McDowell as the head of the ballet company), it's a full audio-visual experience. For all the limbs blown apart in Matrix Revolutions it's got nothing on the Company dancers bandaging their bruised heels and toes, or the horrifying moment when a tendon snaps during a rehearsal. It's something we can respond to, relate to. It's emotion pictures, corresponding to the vibrant, emotive images of the dance.
Continue reading: The Company Review