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Synopsis: Trained from an early age by rigorous perfectionist Professor Bojinski, Polina is a promising classic dancer, about to join the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet when she discovers contemporary dance. She leaves Russia for France to work with famous choreographer Liria Elsaj, determined to succeed in a new life. "Elevates dance films to an art, depicting a dancer's journey toward authenticity with sophistication, artistry and love for the art form."--San Francisco Chronicle
Running Time: 109 Minutes (plus 8-10 minutes of trailers)
Official Web Site:
MPAA Rating: NR
No free passes or daily deals, but discount cards o.k.
Polina’ elevates dance films to an art
By Claudia Bauer
Trained at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, ballerina Anastasia Shevtsova lends Polina an authenticity that’s rare in dance films.
It’s the plot that’s launched a thousand cheesy teen movies: Young dancer feels shackled by the strictures of ballet, discovers modern dance, storms the establishment in an onstage performance of spectacular rebellion. Power to the people! Roll credits.
Then along comes “Polina” to show how a feature film can depict a dancer’s — a human’s — journey toward authenticity with sophistication, artistry and love for the art form, kicking the histrionic mockery of films like “Black Swan” and “Save the Last Dance” to the curb.
Directed by choreographer Angelin Prejlocaj and filmmaker Valérie Müller, who are married, “Polina” is based on French artist Bastien Vivès graphic novel, adapted by Müller.
We follow Polina Shanidze (newcomer Anastasia Shevtsova, who trained at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia) from the ritual child auditions for the school of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet through grueling training under archetypal taskmaster Bojinski (Aleksei Guskov).
On the eve of joining the world-renowned company, a contemporary-ballet performance has made Polina aware of other possibilities, most saliently the potential for dancing as her true self: the young girl introduced early in the film, who danced free and wild in the snowy woods on her way home from the academy.
Polina follows her boyfriend (Niels Schneider) to France, where choreographer Liria Elsaj (Juliette Binoche, whose bona fides include dancing with London’s thrilling Akram Khan Company) puts the first crack in Polina’s shell. Paris Opera Ballet etoile Jérémie Bélingard plays the partner with whom Polina eventually finds communion in art and life.
“Polina” is spare in dialogue; more is conveyed through painterly wide-screen cinematography by Georges Lechaptois: pink satin pointe shoes against the Bolshoi’s splintering wood floors, the swirl of a tutu seen from the rafters, a jagged metal staircase framing a painful conversation between Polina and Elsaj.
Movement does a lot of the talking. Shevstova, Bélingard and the supporting cast are a far cry from the non-dancer actors usually cast in this genre, and “Polina” could be considered an evening-length dance performance with elements of theater and spoken word.
Overly dark lighting, and Shevtsova’s grim mien, could use more brightness — even classical ballerinas enjoy life and smile from time to time. But we’ll leave the nitpicking to the ballet teachers.
Copyright 2017 San Francisco Chronicle
A ballerina searches for her artistic identity
By Edmund Lee
A dancer’s obsessive pursuit of just the right kind of creative expression is beautifully dramatised in this debut feature by eminent French modern-dance choreographer Angelin Preljoçaj, who co-directed the film with his wife and screenwriter, Valérie Müller. Shunning the crowd-pleasing, life-affirming tendencies of mainstream dance movies, Polina instead offers a lyrical and introspective look at the intricate process of finding one’s true artistic calling.
Polina (Anastasia Shevtsova) is a young Russian dancer who, following years of intense training under a formidable ballet teacher (Aleksey Guskov), is admitted to the Bolshoi Ballet as a classical ballerina. However, after being moved to tears by the performance of a modern dance work, she drops out of the prestigious Moscow company, much to the despair of her debt-ridden, working-class parents.
She travels to Aix-en-Provence in southern France to audition for modern-dance choreographer Liria (Juliette Binoche), earning a spot in her company in the process. But her overwhelming drive for success leads to a fallout with both her dancer boyfriend (Niels Schneider) and the troupe.
A third act set in Antwerp, Belgium, sees Polina further exploring the art form, with Jérémie Bélingard – of the Paris Opera Ballet – playing her perfect partner.
In the role of Polina, newcomer Shevtsova is admittedly not the most expressive of film leads. Her opaque emotional display, though, does fit nicely with this character, who seems ready to sacrifice anything – from her relationship with her boyfriend to her parents’ livelihood – amid her quest for greatness.Film review: The Dancer – American modern dance pioneer Loïe Fuller brought to life in biopic
Her story should resonate most with artists who have ever felt lost, while dance lovers will also find much to savour in the film’s gorgeously choreographed sequences.