La Danse: Le Ballet de L’Opera de Paris

Depending how acclimated you are to this era of self-serving, over-explaining documentaries, Frederick Wiseman’s observational reticence will come as either a shock or a relief. Wiseman is the sort of filmmaker who will not narrate or elaborate on his subjects’ inner lives. He won’t even supply their names. Instead, he accumulates carefully surveyed layers of the institutions in which they work. Here, it’s the Paris Opera Ballet, whose outwardly ephemeral artistry is accounted for as a bewitching synthesis of talent and tradition and craft. Briefly looking in on the company’s administrative affairs as well as performances, Wiseman spends most of his time in rehearsals, where his feel for the natural rhythms of real-life scenes yields many intimate beauties and subtle dramatic developments. This film is not for every attention span, but for balletomanes, Francophiles and documentary purists, it’s a must.