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

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Put your Dance Shoes and Watch “Footloose”!

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When Bonnie from Classic Reel Girl announced that she was hosting the Gotta Dance! Blogathon, celebrating dance in the world of cinema, I, of course, had to participate to this highly appealing event. You see, apart from my passion from classic films, I also have a passion for dance. I love watching dance television shows, dancing myself (I did two years of dance when I was in CEGEP). When there’s music around, I can’t help swinging. And, of course, I love dance movies because they are the perfect combination of my two passions.
In this field, when I think of a movie that makes me want to dance, the first one that comes to my mind is Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984) Of course, the 80s were a great decade for dance movies with movies such as the one previously named, Flashdance or Dirty Dancing. Of course, dance in films already existed with the Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly of this world, but here I’m mentioning films were the only performing art is dance (not dance and singing). They are movies who really celebrate dance, movies about about dance. It’s the central subject.
Footloose takes place in the boring little town of Beaumont. Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) and his mother Ethel (Frances Lee McCain) have left Chicago to come live in the city with Ren’s aunt and uncle. The problem in this city is that dance and rock & roll music have been forbidden by city reverend, Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), after a fatal road accident. That’s a problem for Ren as dance is his passion. He makes new friends, including Willard Hewitt (Chris Penn) and Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker) and falls for the reverend’s daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer). Ren has to compete against her boyfriend Chuck (Jim Youngs). Things don’t start too well for Ren as he always seems to get himself into troubles. However, his only objective will be, with the help of his new friends, to bring back the art of dance in the city.
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Footloose story was based on a real life event that happened in the very religious town of Elmore City, Oklahoma in 1978. Dance was forbidden for 90 years and a group of teenagers decided to challenge this. (IMDB) 90 years! Imagine the nightmare.
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I don’t know where I first heard about this film, but one thing is sure, it’s the kind of film everybody knows the existence of. I was curious to know what kind of film it was. So, I watched the trailer and was amazed. Those dance moves, this music; all this was everything I needed to be entertained. So, I immediately borrow the film at the video club and it turned out to absolutely be my kind of film. I later bought the dvd and watched it over and over.
Footloose is  the perfect representation of the dance style at the time, which was much more cool than today’s one.
The film starts in a perfect way with the opening credits where we see different pair of feet doing dance moves, some being quite imaginative and creative. Our attention is immediately grabbed with this scene and we feel like getting up and dancing too. However, we have to sit down to watch the rest of the film.
Of course, this is not the only moment that makes us want to get up and dance. My favourite dance scene is the one when Ren dances in a warehouse. Things aren’t going very well for him and that’s his way to externalize his anger. We can easily say that it’s the most impressive scene of the film with some amazing dance moves and stunts. Kevin Bacon could dance, however, for this scene, he had four stunt doubles for the more difficult tricks.
A very amusing dance scene is the one when Ren teaches to Willard how to dance. Of course, we laugh a lot while watching this scene, but, just like Ren, we are really impressed by Willard’s improvement. The interesting thing about this scene is that Chris Penn really couldn’t dance so he had to be taught on the set. This scene was added precisely because of that. Mixing fiction and reality can sometimes be worthy.
We don’t only remember Footloose for its dance, but also for its music. How can we forget the theme song “Footloose” sung by Kenny Loggins or “Let’s Hear for the Boy” sung by Deniece William (both nominated for an Oscar), or “Holding out for a Hero” sung by Bonny Tyler??? If you like 80’s entertaining music, Footloose‘s soundtrack certainly is a must to your musical library.
Footloose‘s main objective is to celebrate dance, how this one can cheer us and feed us. Just like Ren wants to prove it to the people of Beaumont, dance is not a synonym of debauchery and danger. Dance, after all, remains an art.
So, has David Bowie said “Put your red shoes and dance the blues”!
A big thanks to Bonnie for hosting such a nice blogathon. I invite you to read the other entries as well:
And a happy National Tap Dance Day to all! 🙂
A Time to Dance - Hearts and Laserbeams