The Company (12A)

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Time Out says

Even more than in impressionist gems such as California Split and Nashville, story is not what this latest [2003] Altman masterpiece is about. Refusing to follow narrative demands, the director rids himself of clichés and constraints. While we hang out, for a season or so, with a dance troupe - the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, in fact - fairly early on choreographer Robert Desrosiers pitches his fantasy 'The Blue Snake' to company boss Antonelli (McDowell). But if the movie more or less closes on that piece's first public performance, Altman doesn't make it a climax, any more than he's interested in dramatising a love life for Ry (Campbell), a dancer who's already dumped someone before the film started, who meets sous chef Josh (Franco) some way into it, and who's still uneventfully seeing him at its end. Life goes on. Not, however, on and on. In showing the discussions, rehearsals, preparations and performances (process and product, technique and joy, work and art) Altman has made one of the very best films, certainly the most beautiful of his adventurous career. The dance scenes - most notably a pas de deux to 'My Funny Valentine' (which recurs on the track, à la The Long Goodbye, as theme and variations) - are quite magical. Working in 'Scope with Gosford Park director of photography Andrew Dunn, Altman creates a world of movement, rhythm, poise and colour as lovely, muscular and delicate as a Degas painting. The film's funny and touching too, of course, but most impressive is the sheer, light grace of it all; whether in the acting (Campbell is merely the best in a cast mainly comprised of dancers) or Van Dyke Parks' score, this magnificent movie soars like a bird.

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