DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Company

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Jul 2, 2004.

  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Michael Osadciw


    Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
    Film Year: 2003

    U.S. Rating: PG-13
    Canadian Rating: 14A
    Rated for: Brief Strong Language, some nudity and sexual content.

    Film Length: 112 minutes
    Genre: Drama

    DVD Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 anamorphic
    Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    Subtitles: French
    Closed Captioned: Yes
    SLP: US $26.95

    Release Date: NOW

    Movie Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Starring: Neve Campbell (Ry), Malcolm McDowell (Alberto Antonelli), James Franco (Josh)

    Directed by: Robert Altman
    Written by: Screenplay – Barbara Turner
    Story – Neve Campbell & Barbara Turner

    It is difficult to make it big in dance. So many talented individuals have a passion for the art but few make it to where they can rely on it for a living. Of course, you have to be the best in order to make it far. The Company is a look into the lives of Ballet dancers both on and off stage. Their lives are devoted to the dance as they live in their own inner circle of friends within the company and are not too in touch with the outside world. Directed by Robert Altman, The Company is his movie following the Academy Award winning film Gosford Part. While this certainly isn’t going to be a runner up at the Academy, Altman does bring interest into the art of Ballet.

    The story is about a fictional Chicago Ballet Company done with the help of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. The Company is the main character in this movie, and throughout it we see what goes on behind stage in the lives of those people involved. We never actually get to know any of the characters individually; we know whom they are and we don’t get personal with any of them. Throughout the film we sit back and watch it as an outsider’s point of view, observing what is happening. In essence, there really isn’t any story to this film. Neve Campbell plays a girl named Ry who is a gifted ballet dancer involved with The Company. She gets her chances to become a principle dancer as we see others get the boot in sometimes the most impersonal ways. We watch her struggle with her mother as well as finding some quick love in her life with Josh (James Franco). The dialogue between any of these characters is minimal. So minimal in fact that I could have pressed the mute button and never missed an important piece of dialogue. The relationship that developed between these characters was surprising because it seemed as if we missed a major development in their feelings for each other. One moment they are saying hello, and the next seen they are crawling all over each other saying “I Love You”. Even though some lives are like that, in this movie it just didn’t work.

    Since there really isn’t much of a story and because the movie was presented in the most impersonal way, I really couldn’t have cared about what was happening on screen between the dance sequences. The dance sequences are the amazing part of the movie, but the filler between each sequence is plain boring. I never knew when the movie was going to end and I just kept wishing it would. It’s too bad that the movie was done this way because it could have a lot of potential. This movie reminds me a lot of Altman’s earlier film Beyond Therapy[/i], using amateur jerky camera movements and having the viewer watch everything from the outside.

    Many of the scenes contain frivolous dialogue that takes the movie nowhere. It just shows what’s happening at a particular time. More annoyingly, some of these dialogue scenes just stop in the middle of a conversation and go to a scene that is completely different. It was as if someone just decided “okay, enough of this scene. On to the next!” The actor with the most lines is Malcolm McDowell as Antonelli. If it weren’t for McDowell’s great performance and excessive personality for this character, this movie would not have been bearable between dance performances. His character does add some funny moments in the movie with his straight-up discussions and feelings towards the dancers. Good job, McDowell.

    Neve Campbell also provided a decent performance in her dancing. Her acting in this movie wasn’t the best I’ve seen and I think her story writing needs to improve, but being a ballet dancer since the age of six, she was the only actress privileged to dance with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago for this movie. While dancing by all is not without error, she did a very acceptable job to fulfill her role for the movie. The remaining dance sequences by the Joffrey Ballet were very entertaining. I did prefer the solo performance of ”La Vivandière Pas De Six”. This gravity defying rope-swinging number was beautifully shot on screen and accompanied with the appropriate music to captivate the viewer.

    The Company does capture the intense pressures of the performances and the kinetic energy of the dance. Working extensively with the Joffrey for two years before the movie was made proved to be successful in these areas.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The Company was recorded using Sony’s HDW-F900 HDCAMs with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio in mind for transfer to film. Unlike Once Upon A Time In Mexico, which was shot in HD 1.78:1 for DVD but presented theatrically in 2.39:1, The Company is presented on DVD in its 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio preserving the full image width of the captured performances.

    So how does this High Definition picture look? A little disappointing, actually. I’m seeing a consistency regarding High Definition Video used for motion picture making when transferred to DVD. Most of these movies are softer than the best film transfers I’ve seen. They just don’t have the same depth and detail I’ve seen on other discs. Why could this be? It’s quite possible that the down conversion from 1080p to 480i could limit introduce its own limitations on the final picture in comparison to transferring a film to HD then dumbing it down to 480i. My guess is there is far more resolution in film to begin with, thus, in the end, an excellent film transfer will still look superior to this HD motion picture.

    What else do I see in this process? The black levels can be a little higher than I’d think they should be at, occasionally looking a little ‘whitened’ for the impression of seeing into those dark areas. The result is a false sense of depth. I also found the darker interior scenes looked warmer than normal. While this warmth could be the intention inside of Ry’s apartment, in my mind, that added warmed plugged up picture detail resulting in a softer unsatisfying picture.

    On the plus side: there is no edge enhancement! There is very little MPEG noise to speak of. Colours are absolutely brilliant as well as contrast during the stage performances as they can be mind boggling because of the wonderful cinematography by Andrew Dunn. The dance sequence during the opening credits will wreck havoc on your video processor and surely put it to the test.

    AUDIO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    At last, here we have a soundtrack that tries to be true to the acoustical space of the room on screen. This soundtrack has a very ambient front soundstage that uses directional music cues from pianos and ghetto blasters that are actually being played “in the room”. Thankfully this is different from other dance films when a music piece is played through a ghetto blaster yet the whole soundtrack ignites with deep bass and loud dynamics, or, everything that the ghetto blaster would not actually do. I know that technique is used to excite things up on screen a little, but for this film that tries to be accurate to a dancer’s experience, the choice to mix the sound the way it is was correct. The result is a real sense of space while watching the dancers practice.

    Subtle sounds such as the light pattering of feet on the floor as the ballet dancers run around can be heard. The dynamics of the funky electronic music is played back stress free without a collapse in the soundstage. This is one cool soundtrack that uses the front soundstage to the max and uses the surrounds and LFE sparingly for added enhancement. Unfortunately, my dog ears still pick up high frequency noise around dialogue. I find it very annoying and distracting, and I’ll keep reporting it until this problem disappears.

    SPECIAL FEATURES [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    A commentary by Robert Altman and Neve Campbell is included on this disc. They reminisce about the movie’s beginnings to end, and their experience with the Joffrey Ballet. Not a bad commentary, yet not the most exciting either.

    A Making Of Featurette (7.09, 4:3) features interviews with Campbell, Altman, and McDowell and speaks about the film. And like the second feature The Passion of the Dance (4.14, 4:3), it’s a little informative for the running time it is, but nothing really special for a feature.

    Also included is an extended dance sequence: “Studio A/Show Off” (1.52). This scene shows a little more of the dancing that was cut in the final film. This is a scene that could have been left in the film given the short time it really is added to the whole film, which is already running too long anyway. This little tidbit could have been left in.

    If you are one to just watch the dance sequences in the film and skip over all of the frivolous scenes that make up the rest of the film, you can thank the DVD maker for the option of play(ing) all dance sequences from film. The total running time of all of the dance sequences is 34.38, over a quarter of the film’s length. What exactly happened in the other 3/4s, I have no idea. These sequences are bridged together from the film so they are 16:9 enhanced as well as in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

    Eleven Previews including the theatrical trailer are included on the disc.


    A look into the life of a ballet dancer, The Company is probably appreciated by those in the dance. While I liked many of the dance sequences in the film, it was the outsider’s prospective of the story telling that I didn’t like at all. The DVD itself is excellent in terms of presentation, so in that sense this disc is a winner. While I wouldn’t call this movie entertaining, it may be for those of you interested in seeing ballet both on and behind the stage.

    Michael Osadciw
  2. Dick

    Dick Lead Actor

    May 22, 1999
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    I liked the movie. It created an enviornment I found pleasant to visit and inhabit for a couple of hours. Knowing nothing about dance aside from the aesthetic pleasure I gain from watching it done well, I found the film to be enlightening as well. The musical numbers are somewhat avant garde and are occasionally even electrifying. Nice change of pace for Altman, whose work is never uninteresting.
  3. Mark Palermo

    Mark Palermo Second Unit

    Jun 28, 2000
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    I loved it. It walks a difficult line between documentary and drama, and Altman turns those dance scenes into something incredibly cinematic.
  4. George See

    George See Second Unit

    Jul 14, 2002
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    I really liked this one, even with the lack of a real cohesive story or dialog. I came at this film knowing very little about ballet and I guess I still know very little but the one thing I do know is that done right it's a pretty magical art. The dance sequences in this movie were really well done some of the best i've seen on film. As noted in the review the sound on this DVD does a really great job of creating space and adding a really delicate atmosphere. I wouldn't recomend this one for the story and you may or may not appreciate the way it was filmed (kind of like the audiance is a fly on the wall) but if your even remotely interested in dance as an art form i'd call this one a must rent at the very least.
  5. Michael DeKlerk

    Michael DeKlerk Auditioning

    Jul 4, 2004
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    Sadly this movie never reached my local cinema and it was a blind purchase on my behalf, pleasantly surprised by it, good movie.

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