Noam Eitan | Brooklyn, NY United States | 04/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This filmed version of "Giselle" takes full advantage of the ocean of possibilities that open up with the greater degree of freedom the camera has in a studio. This is done with unparalleled zeal that exceeds anything you can see in most other ballet films. The more exciting leaps and pirouettes are taken from every possible angle, including from above the dancer's head. On some scenes the editing is so hyperactive that the camera cuts every second or so. For example, in the peasant pas de deux in act I the camera cuts from the dancers as they are being viewed from the village square to a camera situated from inside Hilarion's cottage, providing the perspective of his envious and secretive spying over the merry goings on . This highlights the sense of drama - in this particular scene it prepares the viewer to the tragic confrontation that is about to unfold. My initial reaction to this frenzied editing was that it was a little distracting, but this film grows on you with repeat viewing. Starting this review with the film director's work rather than with that of the choreographer or the dancers is symptomatic of what ends up as a competition between all of the above for center stage. But in the end everyone wins - I don't know if I like this film more for its artistic value as a film or because of the dancing. The Italian ballerina Carla Fracci was 33 when this film was shot. She is considered a legend in her country, where she is referred to as "la regina della danza classica italiana e internazionale". She is a graduate of the La Scala ballet school and appeared in several films including Firestone Dances (1962), Nijinsky (1980), Romeo and Juliet (1982), The Life of Verdi (1983), The Romantic Era (1985) and The Ballerinas (1987). Beyond the "technique" she has a certain feminine grace and presence, a far cry from today's anorexic-acrobatic robots. Danish dancer Erik Bruhn was 41 when this film was shot. He is considered among the best, most famous, and most influential dancers of this century. He was a graduate of the Royal Danish Ballet, one of the oldest major ballet companies where some of the oldest ballets have been handed down from dancer to dancer. This film does justice to his reputation as the ideal danseur noble. He died in 1986.The sound, lighting and picture quality is top notch.There are two complete Giselles available now on DVD: the live La Scala with choreography by Patrice Bart and this film version. I usually prefer live performances to film versions because a responsive audience can infect the viewer with their appreciation for the performance. American ballet audiences in particular tend to reward their favorite dancers with loud expressions of their approval and admiration. Personally I like that because I like to be carried away - the more hysteria the better.However, in this case I prefer the filmed Giselle to the live one. The Live La Scala version is very good but like Patrice Bart's other creations on DVD (the Berlin nutcracker and Swan Lake) it is somewhat regimented and devoid of charm. The lighting is inadequate for a videotaped performance, although the good picture quality partially compensates for that (this is the first La Scala DVD that was copied from digital masters rather than from the laserdisc masters). It also provides a rare glimpse into Italian ballet. Italian classical ballet may not evoke the same expectations as Russian classical ballet, but the Italians did have a tradition of particularly good technical training."
jfnsantiago | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | 05/29/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This classical ballet is shown in a rather uncommon way. It seems that the director tried to merge the art of film and the art of dance to produce his own Giselle. The result of this experience is some for and against points. In my opinion the for points are the camera unusual closes, the interesting shots and the importance given on acting as well as on dancing. Considering the year of production the quality of image and sound are surprisingly goods. The against points are the excecive and sometimes disturbing cuts. I wouldn't say this is the definitive Giselle."
The camera work would jangle the nerves of most ballet fans
Jay Gimelli | Alexandria, VA USA | 04/16/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I must disagree with the previous evaluations of this ballet. I think the camera work is some of the worst I have ever seen. Instead of backing the camera up and allowing the viewer the pleasure of the wonderful patterns the dancers comprise in this ballet, the camera shows strange angles, changes angles enough to jar the nerves, and never shows a scene long enough for the viewer to gain a sense of space and see the beauty of the dancers. It changes camera angles so many times, it makes me wonder if the dancers are capable of performing the dance and need the infantile camera tricks to make a scene come together. I was very disappointed with this selection especially after viewing Nureyev's Don Quixote, which is also a movie. Don Quixote gave the viewer a sense of space in which the dancer worked. In Giselle, the feet were cut from some of the dancers and beautiful dance form was wasted on a close ups of the dancers faces. This shows poor selection of camera angles and an infantile view of how dancers should be filmed. I will not return it, but will make sure from now on that I ask about how the ballet is filmed. Artsee, when done by incompetent directors gets real tacky and shows me that this camera director did not have a feel for the true beauty of this production and would rather show off his "expertise" as a camera operator. How sad."
Fracci magnificent as Giselle... but pitiful film editing
R. Nicholson | 10/08/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite some of the negative connotations suggested by the title of this review, this is still one of my favorite ballets on DVD.This is the movie of Adolphe Adam's Giselle, performed by the American Ballet Theatre. The choreography is by David Blair (after Perrot and Corelli). The principal dancers are Carla Fracci as Giselle and Erik Bruhn as Albrecht. The sets and costumes are beautiful and fairly portray the era they are meant to represent.Fracci is a superb dancer, but beyond this, she does a magnificent job in her emotional interpretation of the shy village girl who falls in love with the deceitful Albrecht and then later in Act II, (as a spirit, after her death) where she tries to save her lover from a watery grave at the hands of the vengeful Wili. This ballet has several different mood swings during the performance and Fracci accomplishes them all with surprising ease and elegance. I think this work has a lasting, timeless appeal because of the way that Adam's beautiful, haunting melodies are able to fit with the choreography that was provided for this ballet; the dance and music so superbly suited that this ballet has become ageless masterpiece. There is, unfortunately, a negative side to report (thus the loss of one star): as mentioned by almost all reviewers; some of the camera work and editing is hard to believe. Awkward close-ups, bumpy movie scenes taken from the backs of moving horses, highly magnified distorted shots: all detract from an otherwise outstanding performance. I cannot imagine what the producers or editors were thinking when they allowed this product to be the ultimate version for retail distribution. The cast must have been stunned to see this as the final cut.All in all, I can recommend this work because the music, the dancing and dancers in this ballet are of 5 star quality, however, the entire work is somewhat tarnished and diminished by its less than stellar camera work and editing."
Great Dancing Hideous Editing/Camera work
Ballet Boy | USA | 08/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sadly we won't see great dancing like this again but as usual the idiotic director/editor has ruined what could have been an incredible record of great artists. Where today can you see the drama and charm of a Carla Fracci or the princely elegance of an Eric Brune. Nowhere, that's where. The peasant pas de deux is wonderfully danced by the technical dynamo Eleanor D'Antuono and Ted Kivett. It is such a shame that it is all ruined by a demented director. You will see the same thing happen in the editing of many Broadway shows. Sunday in the Park with George for instance. What a waste!"