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Degas and the Dance - The Man Behind the Easel
Degas and the Dance - The Man Behind the Easel
Actors: Brian Bedford, Frank Langella, Peter Badger
Director: Mischa Scorer
Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2004     1hr 6min

Actor Frank Langella narrates this fascinating look at the life and art of French painter Edgar Degas, focusing specifically on his impressionistic portraits of dancers.


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Movie Details

Actors: Brian Bedford, Frank Langella, Peter Badger
Director: Mischa Scorer
Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Dance, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Biography
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Enhanced - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 04/06/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 6min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Enhanced
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, French

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Movie Reviews

The World Of Ballet In The Time Of Edgar Degas
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 01/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD, also in VHS format, was first released in the BBC, British television. It made its way to KCET PBS station, in Great Performances segment, here in the U.S. It's a biography on the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas and the world of the Paris Opera Ballet of his day. The ballet was Degas' favorite subject for painting, especially because he loved to capture movement and motion on canvas, as well as portray the world more realistically. The Impressionists (l870's) were a group of artists from Paris who introduced a new movement in the art world. The more famous Claude Monet painted gorgeous landscapes and the natural world while Degas concentrated on interior scenes with sheer realism. Degas was influenced by Edouard Manet and Gustav Courbet, both who were regarded as Naturalist and Realists. Degas frequented the Opera where he watched ballerinas perform in spectacle-ballets. This "documentary" type of biography dramatizes Degas in his old age, as he works on his ballerina paintings and the scultupre "Little Dance Age 14 years". The scenes of Montmartre, Degas' studio, ballets on stage and shots of the Paris Opera's gilded interior is beautiful to watch. We are transported to Degas'19th century Paris. The research is accurate. It's well done and informative. Any fan of art, of Degas himself and of ballet's history will find this DVD very resourceful.Edgar Hilaire Degas was dedicated for the most part of painting ballerinas in their true environment- performing on stage where they are illuminated with so much bright artificial light that they appear pale and clown-like, or straining their bodies in rehearsals. They are tired, bored and lonely, but it's obvious by the austere faces of the dance instructor that these girls are going to be pushed to do their best. At the time, the ballerinas came from poor working families, danced nearly all their lifes from childhood, were not payed very well, and were abused. The abuse came in many forms. For one thing they were pressured into perfection in the dance and some of their mothers were willing "Madams" in prostitution deals with gentlemen admirers. These men were known as the abonees, who sponsored the ballet with their money, many of them rich and married. Degas painted them, too, usually in top hats and black suites, mysterious predatory creatures lusting after the ballerinas. The Paris Opera still stands today but is now a professional, completely clean place for a woman to hold a career as ballerina. A lot has changed since the 19th century.Degas' life is not traced in full detail but it's appropriate as far as film about the ballet in his day. The actor portraying Degas looks just like the real Degas (complete with the black tinted glasses he wore to protect his weak, nearly blind eyes from sunlight) and the ballerinas who modeled for him, as well as the nudes in his "Bathers" series look authentic. As mentioned, not every aspect of Degas' life is portrayed. Not featured is Degas'platonic relationship with the American artist Mary Cassat, whom he helped establish as a serious Impressionist artist. Also not considered are the reasons why Degas remained celibate, childless and unmarried. There are books that are more lengthy on details about Degas' life. But this is a great look at ballet at a certain point in time. It's excellent. And I'm proud to be the first review."
How Obsession Leads to Beauty
Jenifer L. Woods | Las Cruces, NM | 10/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a lovely documentary/film made in conjunction with the 2002-3 exhibit "Degas and the Dance," the curators of which are featured commentators: one is an art historian, the other a former dancer and ballet instructor who specializes in late 19th Century French dance. Together, they paint a vivid and informative picture of Degas' life-long relationship with the Paris Opera.

This is not a biography of Degas; it is an exploration--through his art--of his fascination with dancers and his obsession with perfection. The program features many of his well- and lesser-known paintings and pastels, with enough intelligent discussion and close-ups to keep most viewers happy. It goes further, though, to show (through re-enactments) Degas' working methods and his restless experimentation with alternative mediums and techniques. We see him meticulously pose models in his Montmarte studio, then use the sketches of individual dancers to compose complex classroom and backstage scenes--often over and over again. We're treated to a demonstration of Monotype printing, and examples of how he sometimes used these as underpaintings for pastels. We get a peek at lovely fan-shaped paintings, a glimpse of an etching, and a very cool side-by-side look at actual photographic negatives and the corresponding finished works of art. We watch Degas creating the wax model for his "Little Dancer" bronze, and learn why his subsequent sculptural efforts were for his personal use only. This film does a reasonably good job of showing both the breadth of Degas' dance works (oils, pastels, prints, sculpture, etc.) and their chronological progression from realistic to abstract.

"In art, one is never entitled to disregard what is true." Degas had seemingly-unrestricted access to the Opera and its dancers, so this film goes into some detail about the world of the dancers in the artist's time. He disregarded the glamor to focus on their reality of long hours, hard work, sore feet and unnatural movements. We get a fairly un-sugarcoated depiction of wealthy patron/predators who frequented the performances--then understand why they show up in the shadows of Degas' paintings. The works of art and re-enactments are interspersed with scenes of present-day dancers and the glorious Paris Opera House. The commentators are knowledgeable and they clearly love Degas and the ballet; and the film is beautifully presented and scored.

The DVD extras, while not extensive, are well worth viewing. There are brief, but informative, audio dialogues on nine of the featured works; as well as deleted scenes, including one showing original set models (maquettes) for ballet productions Degas attended, a trip to the artist's pastel supplier, and extended discussions of the artwork. I was disappointed in the "Timeline" feature, which promised a detailed timeline with 30 rarely-seen works of art--but this just wasn't the case (or maybe I was simply unable to access it...). The only black mark on this otherwise-terrific disc."
Great DVD.
humdec | South Bend, IN | 01/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My daughter is 11, and has been with a local ballet company for 5 years now. Her room is decorated with some plates and other items depicting Degas work. She had seen many items in ballet catalogs decorated with Degas paintings, posters, etc. but never thought of the artist himself much. This film was a great introduction. One of her favorite musicals is Webber's Phantom of the Opera and seeing the actual Opera House in this film, inside and out was just great. The reenactments and the rehearsal shots are very well fit into the story. The entire film is crisp, very clear, great sound and magnificent views of Montmartre. The wide screen format is a plus if you have this type of TV. I am giving this DVD 5 stars although the extra features could have been longer."