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directed by Henry Joost and Jody Lee Lipes
USA 2010

 

Jerome Robbins' expanded his WEST SIDE STORY choreography into a New York urban ballet that became a world-wide hit and was performed on The Ed Sullivan Show (under Robbins' technical direction). The film, co-produced by "Great Performances," takes the performance off the stage and out of the TV studio to a handful of little-seen (on film), atmospheric urban New York locations. The performance is bookended by a "pure cinema" prologues and epilogues of the dancers' downtime as well as some interstitial bits between the four acts. The mere use of film over high-definition video suggests the extra effort of the filmmakers took to capture the performance, but they have also delivered a wonderful visual experience with a lot of available light, color gels, chiaroscuro lighting, and backlighting with stage-lights shining into the camera (at times, the film looks like FLASHDANCE or FAME crossed with a jazz soundtrack and ballet choreography). Shot on film and in anamorphic 2.40:1, some wide angles feature anamorphic bowing along the edges of the frame but that adds to the film's diverse look. Far from being a mere cinematic affectation, the use of the scope aspect ratio throughout the film results in some interesting compositions (although other times, it is used simply to encompass all the dancers within the same shot). Some of the choreography may provoke the same kind of titters from modern audiences that WEST SIDE STORY does, but Robbins' "modern dance" choreography was quite revolutionary for a ballet (especially one that toured around the world as a representation of American art and culture, and then was performed to the audience of "The Ed Sullivan Show" whose wide national viewership probably had quite clichéd ideas of what defined ballet).

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 24 March 2010

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DVD Review: Factory 25 - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Factory 25

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 0:46:12
Video

2.40:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.49 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Factory 25

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.40:1

Edition Details:
• A Ballet in Sneakers: Jerome Robbins and OPUS JAZZ (16:9; 14:24)
• Jerome Robbins' Ballets: USA (4:3; 14:42)

DVD Release Date: 22 November 2010
Digipack in Slipcase

Chapters 6

 

Comments

The 3/4 hour feature is progressive, anamorphic, and has been treated to a high-bitrate. The music is from the original Robert Prince recordings and has been digitally remastered (the recording only sounds dated in some instances but is bold in others) while the rest of the audio is location ambiance (there is no scripted dialogue in the performance).

"A Ballet in Sneakers" is a nice, concise, documentary about Robbins and his creation. It includes comments from Robbins' students, friends, New York City Ballet dancers, archival interview footage with Robbins, and footage from the Ed Sullivan show performance (in which Robbins was in the control room directing the editorial switching between camera angles, the performance was shot with seven TV cameras rather than the usual three). "Jerome Robbins' Ballets: USA" is a nice vintage television documentary that is heavier on performance than narration. Some commentary from the filmmakers would have been welcome but overall, Factory 25's release is a nice package.

  - Eric Cotenas

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Factory 25

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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