SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2010: Is ballet the least-appreciated major art form in America? To perform it demands the physical fitness and training of a professional athlete and the skills a professional actor. The music is often lively, and the choreography is intricate, able to communicate emotion without language. And for this, it is widely derided. Part of the reason for this is that the stories told in the medium are often presented as fantasies, period pieces, or artsy abstractions; something as contemporary as "NY Export: Opus Jazz" is a rarity.Though a product of the 1950s, with a score by Robert Prince and choreography by Jerome Robbins (perhaps best known for the choreography of West Side Story), this film version is done in modern street clothes. It has five movements, shot on location around New York City, with teenage characters romancing, fighting, and challenging each other. Those five segments are connected with brief narrative snippets tying them together (though not using dialogue to do it).
I cannot comment on the ballet aspects of NY Export: Opus Jazz in much detail or really with any expertise; I'm as guilty of ignorance where dance is concerned as anyone. I can say that I came to regret that while watching this movie; I was thoroughly drawn in by the recreated choreography of Robbins and the energetic performances of the New York City Ballet. The cinematography is excellent; a scene featuring two dancers overlooking the city is one of the most beautiful of the year. The locations are well-chosen; empty and sometimes a little run-down, suggesting that the characters are at best on the lower side of middle-class, but giving the characters plenty of room to move and jump.
The ballet itself only runs about forty-five minutes; the film is padded out to just over an hour (and thus feature length) with a documentary on the original staging of the ballet back in 1958. It's not bad; it's reasonably informative, especially for folks like me with very little knowledge of the medium and its recent history. It does, however, often feel like the padding that it is, a DVD extra surgically attached to the feature.That doesn't diminish the actual performance, though; that's beautiful and thoroughly entertaining. It's a rare treat, but it really shouldn't be.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 series, click here.