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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Company: Special Edition
Company: Special Edition
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // June 1, 2004
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted May 17, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The latest effort from "Gosford Park" director Robert Altman, "The Company" is a somewhat more experimental feature than the director has previously been known for. Sort of a "docudrama" of sorts, the film really doesn't have much in the way of plot: it simply follows a group of ballet students at Chicago's Joffrey Ballet through an entire season, with performances, rehearsal, backstage gossip, problems (dealing with investors, injury) and another round of all four.

The film focuses on "Ry" (Neve Campbell), an aspiring dancer working her way up in the company. The film itself doesn't really tell us much about her, about any of the dancers or even the show's artistic director (Malcolm McDowell). The film concentrates more on the performance, as we see a series of efforts from the troupe, including a spectacularly filmed performance that takes place in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Does the lack of story and character make the film suffer? Well, not completely. Although the film verges on becoming a documentary so much at times that I wondered why Altman didn't make a documentary about ballet, the film still remains a mostly effective look at the struggles these students have to go through. The lack of conflict does tend to make some stretches of the film drag out rather noticably, but Campbell's performance (a trained ballerina, Campbell dances for real in the film and gets co-writing/producing credits), the supporting efforts and Andrew Dunn ("Gosford Park")'s cinematography do a pretty good job keeping the interest.

Ultimately, there just isn't that much to say about "The Company". The film's dance sequences are remarkably choreographed and filmed and the performances are generally good. Drama arrives in little bits and pieces, subplots arrive and depart without much in the way of hellos and goodbyes. On one hand, there's nothing forced about this enterprise, which is a refreshing alternative to sappy scores and forced sentimentality. However, with the lack of conflict and characters that either aren't terribly developed or come and go, the film's slow pace might try the patience of those who aren't fans or don't at least appreciate ballet. Good, worthwhile, but maybe not among Altman's best work.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Company" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The DVD's transfer quality was generally quite good, with sharpness and detail that only seemed to turn soft during a few romantic scenes where the hazy focus appeared intentional. A couple of little traces of edge enhancement appeared during the show, but edge enhancement wasn't noticed. The film's warm, vivid color palette was represented well here, with well-saturated tones and no smearing.

SOUND: "Company" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and, almost shockingly, it's a Robert Altman film with a moderately aggressive (well, considering the material) sound mix. Surrounds are used rather frequently, presenting a considerable amount of background ambience during the dramatic scenes and strong reinforcement of the music during the dance sequences. Audio quality was excellent, with crisp recording of the music behind the performances, dialogue and background ambience.

EXTRAS: The main supplement is a commentary from director Robert Altman and actress Neve Campbell. The commentary does sort of settle in, but there are some funny, energetic moments early on, such as Campbell's response of "that's appropriate" to Altman's statement that his last name stands for "old man". Campbell discusses the writing process and research process that she did with writer Barbara Turner to try and sculpt the screenplay before approaching Altman. Campbell also talks about working with the other actors and learning the routines, while Altman chats about what attracted him to the project and trying to work with dancers who weren't actors. The commentary falls back into describing the on-screen action a few times, but otherwise, it's a pretty involving track.

Aside from the commentary, there is a short "making of" featurette and another brief piece, "Passion of Dance". Viewers can also watch an extended dance sequence and the isolated dance sequences in the film. Finally, we also get trailers for "The Company", "Big Fish", "Bon Voyage", "The Cuckoo", "Fog of War", "Masked and Anonymous", "Mona Lisa Smile", "Respiro", "Something's Gotta Give", "Triplets of Belleville" and "The Company" soundtrack.
Final Thoughts: "The Company" is an interesting effort; a naturalistic look at these artists, without really much in the way of conflict or drama. While the strong cinematography and fine performances mostly were engaging, the film still dragged somewhat at nearly two hours. Columbia/Tristar's DVD edition provides very good audio/video quality and supplements. Recommended for fans of the film or ballet in general.

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