This is a wonderful, quite mesmerising dance documentary screening as part of the Sydney Film Festival.
RESET is an intimate, behind the scenes look at the work of Benjamin Millepied. Many people will know Millepied for his work on the movie Black Swan and his marriage to the film’s lead actress Natalie Portman. At the time of the filming Millepied was the Artistic Director of the Paris Opera Ballet. We follow his journey up to the gala premiere of his new work Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward (This piece was reviewed by me for the Guide when it screened in November last year).
There are wonderful sequences of the dancers in class and rehearsal. We learn about the decision process that went through in choosing sixteen of the dancers from the Corps de Ballet. We also learn about the long history of the Paris Opera Ballet, its importance in the ballet world and how Millepied how has been attempting to introduce changes to the Company’s bureaucracy. (See the movie La Danse for the previous regime).
RESET gives us an indepth look at Millepied’s choreographic creative style; obsessively listening to the music, working on sections of the work by himself in a studio, and his of notebooks. We see how the various layers of choreography are constructed in the lead up to the premiere.
What we see of Millepied’s choreography is blisteringly fast, precise and complicated including a luminous pas de deux and a writhing sculptural ensemble section. We also meet Millepied’s frantic yet extremely organised assistant Virginia Gris with her constant catch cry, ‘Where is Benjamin?’.
We see how caring Millepied is for his dancers; worrying about their injuries, and trying to introduce more health and safety dance medicine aspects. He states his concern that dancers are too often forced to become robotic clones, taught by abusive teachers.
Millepied unusually casts a mixed-race lead for La Fille Mal Gardee, a decision that, like his interest in using a “Third Stage” digital venue to attract new audiences and artists to the institution, shows his keen desire to bring the hidebound, recalcitrant institution of the Paris Opera into the 21st century.
Cinematographer Alban Teurlai’s makes a lot of use of close-ups, and there is a lot of use of slow-mo. Teurlai’s fluidly and intimately zooms, pirouettes and bourees as it follows these wonderful dancers.
RESET takes us inside the tech rehearsals, we watch as the set comes together, and witness the wardrobe department frantically working on the costumes, as designed by Iris van Herpen. The intense, beaming bear composer Nico Muhly is also featured.
With RESET, Millepied comes across as a charming but harried leader and mentor whose ability to develop, and bring to fruition, his chosen programme, is second to none.
The film concludes with the Gala’s enthusiastic applause and then goes on to mention Millepied’s sudden resignation in February this year.
Running time – just under two hours.
There is one more screening of RESET, in French with English subtitles, at the Sydney Film Festival tomorrow.