DVD: Reset | reviews, news & interviews
Benjamin Millepied at the helm of the Paris Opera Ballet - what really happened?
The curious thing about Reset, the documentary that tracks the making of a new ballet by Benjamin Millepied at the Paris Opera Ballet, is that it clearly had another agenda. Millepied, a Frenchman nicely named for his profession, was a left-field appointment as director of the 335-year-old institution in 2014. He lasted only two years, but that in itself is hardly a story given the number of his predecessors whose tenure was even shorter.
The film was shot over a period of weeks during the same season that saw Millepied quit, yet reveals no serious friction. Okay, so the 36-year-old breezes around the hallowed corridors of the Palais Garnier in T-shirts and trainers. So he had the beautiful old wooden parquet in the dance studios ripped out (the replacement sprung floors reducing at a stroke the rate of injury). So he cast a mixed-race girl as the lead in a favourite old classic. More boldly, he dared to suggest (sacré bleu!) that the Paris Opera Ballet might not be the best in the world, as its dancers had been led to believe since age 11. But such issues are mere ripples on the film’s glamorously sheeny surface. Millepied’s handsome brow remains unfurrowed. Only his terrier-like PA – whose frequent changes of hair colour must count as some kind of therapy – registers one iota of stress.
For the punter, it’s all about the dancing
Perhaps aware of this lack of tension, the film employs that hoary old reality-TV shtick of counting down the days till the new ballet’s premiere in big doomy captions. But this looks rather silly given that no one seems unduly pressured. Millepied keeps telling the dancers how pleased he is, they treat Millepied like a favourite older brother, and even the costume department, without demur, sets to with a will to produce lace-effect tutus from what looks like laser-cut sheet metal. Pas de problème.
If the hidden agenda was to smooth the way for the next leg of Millepied’s career by showing him as a super-nice guy, a good people-person and a more-than-decent choreographer, then it might work. If it was to show the Paris Opéra Ballet as a creaky grande dame in need of a facelift, then it failed. The company seen here seems to be squaring up to the 21st century just fine.
For the punter, it’s all about the dancing. The Paris Opera Ballet is ruthless in its selection of the kind of body that suits its particular aesthetic – in this case long, lean and straight out of a Chanel shoot. These are without exception ravishing specimens of the human form, while their work – seen in rehearsal as well as on stage – is gorgeously shot. The film’s original title, Relève, loses its double resonance in English. In French, it refers both to a ballet step and to the restoring of a thing to its formerly elevated state. Beauty, however, is rarely lost in translation, and nor is it here.
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