The Ballet Scenes from Les Uns et les Autres (1981)

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Last February, I saw a ballet for the first time. It was Swan Lake and it was beautiful. Dance and cinema are two things that always fascinated me. As Christina from Christina Wehner and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood prove us with their En Pointe: the Ballet Blogathon, this dance style could be included in movies on several occasions. My choice for the blogathon is Claude Lelouch’s French film Les Uns et Les Autres, which contains some of my favourite dance numbers in a movie. The film is a complex one, so here I’ll really be only focusing on the ballet scenes only.

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Les Uns et les Autres is a great fresco depicting the lives of four different families on three different generations. Some actors play more than one role. For example, James Caan (from the American family) plays both Jack Gleen and his son Jason Glenn.

But let’s move to the dancing aspects of the film right now. Forget about the pink tutus, Les Uns et Les Autres challenges the clichés.

The audition

The film starts in Moscow in 1936. Tatiana (Belgium dancer Rita Poelvoorde) auditions to become Bolchoï’s first dancer. One of the judges, Boris Itovitch (Argentinian dancer Jorge Donn) falls under her charm. Tatiania fails to become the star of the Bolchoï, but she eventually marries Boris.

This first ballet scene is a simple, but a beautiful one. Here, the dancers are dressed in white. There are no extravagances as the first objective is to show us dance, not a fashion show. The camera revolves around the dancers to show us the moves on various angles. In this scene, there’s an alternation between the two ballerinas dancing and Boris’s reacting shots. He is obviously charmed by this thin white angel that Tatiana is. The ballerinas dance on Ravel’s Bolero, which will take an important place in this film.

 

Sergei’s Solo

Tatiana and Boris have a son, Sergei (also played by Jorge Donn), who later becomes a great dancer like his parents.

In this scene, he dances alone in a palace in front of a crowd of rich people. He wears gold and red pants and a red scarf in his hair. With his impressive talent, we can’t deny that he has inherited his parent’s passion for dance. This scene contains a few slow motions which allow us to husk the dancing movements. The room where he dances is a magnificent one with its large mirrors, its chandeliers, and its gilding. The chosen music for this scene is the energetic 4th movement from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

 

Apocalypse Ballet

This really is one of my favourite parts of the film. A filming crew is shooting a dance sequence. Everything starts slowly. Three men in white walk slowly surrounded by dense smoke. A funeral procession passes next to them. Suddenly, Michel Legrand’s musical theme for the film explodes and the dancers, wearing white and grey one-pieces, appears. They dance without stopping to advance. They are indeed surrounded by a real apocalypse: smoke, car accident, fire fighters, a helicopter, flames, etc. Here we are far from the prestigious palace where Sergei was dancing and we explore the creepy corners of a city. I love this scene for its dynamic staging, the music and the choreography itself, of course.

 

Dancing for the Red Cross

In this scene, we find back Sergei for an unforgettable final. Yes, this is the final scene of the film, but I encourage you to watch it now. As a matter of fact, I saw it before seeing the film and it just made me want to see it, you know. And, honestly, it doesn’t really spoil the story. It could perfectly have been the opening scene, followed by a long flashback. The scene takes place in Paris next to the Eiffel Tower. A ballet show is organized by the Red Cross. Sergei dances on a red platform surrounded by dancers dressed in black and white. Not long after the dance has started, Sarah Glenn (Geraldine Chaplin) daughter of Suzanne Glenn (also played by Geraldine Chaplin) and Jack Glenn (James Caan) appears on the top of the Eiffel Tower and accompanies the music with her singing voice. She is accompanied by Patrick Pratt (Manuel Gelin), also a singer. We can see in this scene that Sergei hasn’t lost his talent as a dancer. Jorge Donn moves with an impressive grace which makes him look like he’s flying. He almost makes ballet looks easy (in a good way), but we all know it’s not! What I also love about this scene is that it reunites all the still living characters of the film. Some are watching the show live, some are watching it on their television at home. It makes us realize that Les Uns et les Autres reunites quite an amazing all-star cast. Everybody watches the show religiously, but with a glimpse of nostalgia or, for some, of melancholy, in their eyes. Just like the audition scene, the chosen music here is Ravel’s Bolero, and it’s glorious.

When you’ll watch the clip, you can skip the first 3:30 minutes.

 

This scene definitely is one of my most favourite movie scenes ever. I love it because they kept it simple, but, yet, it manages to be majestic.

A big thanks to Michaela and Christina for hosting this blogathon! 🙂 I sure hope you took a look at all the clips!

Makes sure to check the other entries. 🙂

En Pointe: the Ballet Blogathon

See you!

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9 thoughts on “The Ballet Scenes from Les Uns et les Autres (1981)

  1. A new film featuring ballet that I had not heard of!! It was lovely to be able to watch all the different dances. I always get excited to see films that cast dancers, too.

    How exciting to see your first ballet! I’m going to see my first ballet, too, this September and am really anticipating it.

    Thanks so much for joining and sharing this film!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an interesting film! Michel Legrand’s music is always lovely, and I love James Caan, so I’ll have to keep my eye out for this one. Thanks for contributing this great post to our blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

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