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Company, The

Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // June 1, 2004
List Price: $26.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Mike Long | posted May 27, 2004 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

Over the past few years, we've seen an increase in mockumentaries -- films which look like they are documenting an actual event or person, but they are really playing it for laughs. We've even had what I like to call fauxumentaries, such as The Blair Witch Project, in which the filmmakers want us to believe that their fictional film is true. But, what about drama-mentaries? Have you ever seen one of these? Me neither...that is, until I saw The Company, a film which inserts fictional characters into a real-life setting. And the result is neither educational or dramatic.

Neve Campbell stars in The Company as Loretta "Ry" Ryan, a dancer in Chicago's renowned Joffrey Ballet Company. (The DVD box art actually claims that the film takes place in a "fictional Chicago troupe". Simply go the to 4:00 mark in the film to see the dancers walk through the Joffrey door.) Ry is a member of the company, but she has caught the eye of company artistic director Alberto Antonelli (Malcolm McDowell), a man known for his ruthless criticism and for changing his mind very quickly. As the group prepares a new dance, Ry sets her sight on being a principal dancer, while romancing new boyfriend, Josh (James Franco).

I feel that I say this all the time now, but The Company truly is an odd movie. The film is set in the world of a real dance company and utilizes real dancers to fill most of the roles, and yet it isn't a documentary. We learn nothing about the history of the dance company (Who started it? Wow was it started/), nor do we learn much about the daily goings-on in the group (Where do the dancers come from? What are the qualifications?) McDowell's character mentions financial backers once or twice, but we don't get any of idea of where the funding comes from. The film isn't quite a complete dramatic film either. We don't get to know much about Ry, save for the fact that she works as a waitress on her day off and that her parents are divorced. We know less about Josh, and many of the other characters are simply interchangeable. (There's a subplot (?!) about a group of dancers who room together which goes nowhere.) The Antonelli character is somewhat interesting, but he remains an enigma throughout the film. There are some scenes where it is understood that something dramatic is happening, but as we know so little about the characters, it's difficult to care.

And yet, given those facts, director Robert Altman plows ahead with The Company and has produced a true mish-mash of a movie. The film goes from dialogue scenes into full-scale dance numbers with little sense of continuity. There's also no sense of time in the movie. We know that the group has a "season" but we never know where we are in that season. (There is a Christmas party at one point, but for all we know, the movie started on December 22nd.) I'm assuming that the group's final performance is meant to be taken seriously, but the piece (and especially the primary sales pitch) reminded me of something which would make Spinal Tap blush. The only redeeming feature to The Company is the dancing itself. Altman and director of photography Andrew Dunn have done a great job of capturing the group's performances. But, true ballet fans probably know of many other resources where they can see top-notch dance without having to sit through the confusing tedium which makes up the rest of this movie. If The Company arrives at your house, act like your not home.

Video

The Company dances onto DVD courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The Company was shot on high-definition video, thus producing a very pleasing image. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material and only a very, very fine amount of grain is noticeable. The colors are very good, and the blacks look very rich. The fleshtones do show some shimmering, and there are some moments where artifacting is noticeable, but otherwise, the transfer is quite stable.

Audio

This DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The first thing that you'll notice about this track is that the dynamic range is woefully out of whack. The dialogue is very soft, while the musical numbers are loud and booming. As noted above, the dance scenes typically appear without warning, so I was constantly scrambling for the volume control, as the dance scenes were easily twice as loud as the dialogue scenes. The dialogue is audible for the most part, although there were times when I was struggling to hear what was being said. The music, while loud, sounds fine, and fills the surround speakers.

Extras

The Company DVD contains a few extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Robert Altman and co-writer/star Neve Campbell. This is a good-natured talk, as this pair chat about everything from the script to the dancers to the locations. It isn't the most spontaneous or entertaining commentary, but it is informative. The DVD contains a 7-minute "Making of" Featurette which contains comments from Altman, Campbell, Franco, McDowell, screenwriter Barbara Turner, and director of photography Andrew Dunn. The piece contains clips from the film and some behind-the-scenes footage. "The Passion of Dance" (4 minutes) has a very similar look, but this time the participants talk about the dedication of the dancers and a dancer's life is like. The "Studio A/Show Off" dance sequence is here in an extended (2 minutes) version (2.35:1, but not 16 x 9). The best extra is the feature where one can watch all of the dance sequences, which contains 10 segments and runs 34 minutes. That way, you can skip the "movie" parts of the movie. Finally, we have the theatrical trailer, which is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and is 16 x 9.


Neve Campbell made The Company because she wanted to have a film which showed what life was like for a dancer. Except for a few fleeting moments, we really don't get that from this movie. Perhaps having Robert Altman direct the film was a mistake, as the movie meanders out of control and Altman insists on zooming in on objects which really aren't important. There are much better dance partners out there than this movie.
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