Monday, November 9, 2015
Bolshoi Babylon (2015) DOC NYC 2015
Very early in the film someone from the Bolshoi says that Russia is best known for two things the Kalashnikov rifle (aka the AK47) and the Bolshoi Ballet. He adds that other guns have taken the place of the AK47 but the Bolshoi remains It is, he continues, the soul of Russia, to the point that when someone throws acid on it it's a sign that something is seriously wrong. It is an interesting metaphor especially coming early into a film that examines the fabled ballet and the aftermath of an attack on its new artistic director with acid. The attack carried out by a dancer in the company was the result of his feeling slighted at not getting the roles he wanted.
The film follows three strands over the course of its run time. the first is a look at the running of the Bolshoi. We watch as the dancers go through their paces and prepare for their roles. The second strand is the story of the acid attack and how it ripples out through the company. The third story is how the company begins to deal with all of the troubles the attack exposed and make an effort to clear out the ill feelings and rot that was lying under the surface.
This is a great film. It’s one of those special films that I not only want to see again for enjoyment (the ballet sequences are just amazing), but also because I want to see how what we see at the end affects what we know at the beginning. I want to see the star knowing the end.
I am not a big dance fan. I really have no affinity for ballet, but the images of the dancers and of the performance hooked me from the first frame. Sitting there watching it on a small TV screen (I saw this via Festival Scope service) all I could think was how much better this would be on a movie screen. As I write this some four weeks before DOCNYC I’m trying to figure out how to schedule getting to see it at a festival screening. (if you’re in New York and can see this at DOC NYC go- its spectacular to see at times)
Where the film scores big time is in it weaving of the various story threads. The film manages to keep each story interesting and it doesn’t lose any of them along the way.
The film is good enough that when it ended I went to the internet in order to get more information on the history of the Bolshoi.
This was the first DOC NYC FILM I saw and it was a gangbusters way to start the festival. Highly recommended.
The film has a single screening Friday at the festival. For more information and tickets go here.