Robert Altman, USA, 2003, 112 min.
As a horrible film-maker and writer I can appreciate the creative process. That is what The Company shows. No frills. Just a year in the life of a ballet company getting ready to put on a big production. Yes, there are characters and stories, but they are all part of the bigger picture. A picture of how a group of artists live and work together in order to make something special.
The Companyis Altman’s 35th(?) feature film, so he has considerable experience doing just what he presents on screen. It’s a surprise that this project didn’t originate from Altman himself. It actually originated from it’s star and writer Neve Campbell, who brings her considerable dancing talents to the table. Campbell, who trained as a dancer before becoming an actress, fits perfectly in the role and manages to be engaging and still not overshadow the rest of what is going on in the film.
It is not a story of her character, Ry. Even though we see her manage to replace a headlining dancer, perform a solo dance routine in a storm, fall under the wing of the eccentric producer Malcolm McDowell, and fall in love and start a relationship with James Franco, she is still not the main character. No one is. Those are just some of the many stories that start and end and loop around in the course of a real-life production. We see parts of some, hints of others, some complete stories and some that have no closure.
It’s just like life, where we can be part of something and privy to many of the moving parts but could never possibly see everything. In The Company, the creative process and the feeling created are a representation of the whole, and through it we understand the depth and truth contained within. It’s a remarkable film that is perfect for Altman’s style.
A large portion of this film is given over to the actual performances, done by the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Here we can see the only part of the production that audience usually gets to see. But this time it is given much more weight because we see the blood, sweat and tears that happened behind the scenes to lead up to these moments. These moments that would never had existed if dozens of creative people didn’t get together and work hard for months. It’s a thought that can be applied to any piece of collaborative art, and hopefully that thought will give you a new found appreciation of what happens in order to make art possible.