Daisy Miller - 1974

Who doesn't know about the golden couple of 70s Hollywood, Polly Platt and Peter Bogdanovitch breaking up because of Cybill Shepherd.  So besotted was Bogdanovitch, he tried his hardest to turn Shepherd into a big Hollywood star.  Unfortunately, Shepherd didn't have a range further than playing the PRETTY GIRL.

This film is an interesting failure mainly because it should have worked for Shepherd, yet it is also serves as a kind of commentary of the kind of uproar the Shepherd/Boganovitch pairing caused in the film social circles.

The film's biggest asset and its biggest fault is Cybill Shepherd herself.  She is just fine as the flighty, flirty, very pretty Daisy Miller.  However she lacks the technique to go further, to show the rebelliousness and the stubbornness brewing underneath her bubbly smile.  Unfortunately Bogdanovitch doesn't give her any help because he is so intent on focusing on her pretty face.  See picture above, we get numerous shots of Shepherd smiling winsomely.  A more level headed man would have realized that his crush wasn't much of an actress and instead give more scenes to the better actors around her.  Barry Brown as Winterbourne was fabulous.  Cloris Leachman was also great as Daisy's insane mother.  But the showstopper of the film was Eileen Brennan looking gorgeous and dripping malevolence as Mrs. Walker.  Bogdanovitch should have turned the last half of the film into a portrait of Brennan's character turning the small expat Roman community against Shepherd's Daisy.  It would have at least cast Shepherd's flat characterization in a more sympathetic light.  As it stands, Daisy Miller in this film is so annoying it allows the audience to hope for someone or something to slap her silly into some common sense. Therefore, the end didn't have the note of tragedy and hopelessness it should have had.

The setting and film work was lovely. But there were off base elements.  I didn't get the feeling I was actually in the late 1870s but in a 1970s version of it.  This film definitely suffers from the absence of Polly Platt's discerning eye.  Still it has enough eye candy to keep a period film maven happy.

So yes, it could have been better.  Heck, it could have been a lot worse.  But you know what I say?  Eff it.  Watch it for Eileen Brennan's shark like society leader.  Even a few minutes of her performance makes this disjointed project enjoyable.

Cybill as Daisy.  Sigh.  It doesn't develop any further than this clip.  Believe me.


Balanchine's Concerto Barocco

There are a few examples of NYCB's Concerto Barocco online and you can see all manner of ballerina's in the iconic roles.  My favorite is Patricia McBride who was filmed dancing the lead in an awful cut filled with strange, choppy edits.  But it didn't diminish the work of Mcbride or Martins and the rest of the company.  I think I've read that Balanchine did not cast McBride in this role and her big leap into the ballet was due to Farrell leaving the company in the early 70's.  I'm not sure why Balanchine hesitated to use her, perhaps because he envisioned the role for tall dancers.

I've posted a short clip of State Ballet of Georgia dancing a wonderful rendition of the ballet.  They paid a great deal of attention to stylistic detail especially since Balanchine was Georgian.  In essence they have a great deal of the NYCB polish but still true to their own ballet heritage.  It makes me wonder if they are an affiliated Balanchine company.  Because I watched their Youtube channel and they featured a lot of Balanchine works in their company seasonal advertisement.  Whatever the case, they are truly wonderful in this video.

Another clip is of a very young Suzanne Farrell dancing with Conrad Ludlow.  I always thought that I would love Farrell in this role.  But honestly I don't.  This role requires a certain amount of polish, a bit of classicism that LeClerq and Mcbride had in spades.  At the time, Farrell lacked this polish.  Instead she goes off on wild tangents and follows her own ideas on how the steps should be phrased.  She exploits over extensions, if a step requires the dancer to be a bit off balance...Farrell actually falls off pointe, she uses retardando in her dancing in surprising ways.  I'm surprised how much Balanchine allowed her to experiment in this role.  I mean, to the point where in many cases her ideas just don't jell and she looks physically ugly.  However she is always fascinating to watch even if I prefer other dancers over her.


A bit of dancing and finally someone speaks out!

As if answering my prayer for video of Sarah and the others dancing, Lane posted this short rehearsal clip of her and her partner Osiel Gouneo.  Its pure wonder!  Lane has perfect, powerful, rock solid fouettes that stick to one place on stage.  What we are being denied to watch at ABT is truly a crime.  Lane is being wonderfully partnered by Gouneo.


People are beginning to speak out about black ballet history.

In particular, Balanchine ballerina Debra Austin.

Due to self-aggrandizing reality facebook/instagram stars coopting history to make themselves look better, the real history of black dancers is being destroyed.  In particular, the accomplishments of Austin are being hidden both her work for Balanchine and her work as a principal with the Pennsylvania Ballet Company.  I hope more people start to speak out.  I hope Dance Theater of Harlem starts to protest their being denigrated in ballet history.  They are enshrined in the ballet museum at the Kirov now Mariinsky.  They are a major dance company.  They gave opportunities to major dance stars.  This should not be allowed to be forgotten nor should it be bulldozed down by some publicity hound's marketing department.

John Clifford posted this record of Austin's dancing on his youtube channel.


Roberto Bolle and Friends

A photo posted by @18lacris on

Sarah Lane is touring Italy with Roberto Bolle's troupe this summer.  Get tickets if you are near the tour locations!  I wish I could see video of everyone dancing.


The Fury - Brian DePalma

Brian DePalma's The Fury was one of my favorite horror flicks as a kid.  It was up there with Carrie. At the time of its release, it was treated as a real good B movie horror/action film but definitely not in the same league as its more campy predecessor.  For one thing it lacked Piper Laurie's outrageous, scene stealing maniac mama.

From what I can recall, I watched this film because I was a fan of Andrew Stevens.  He was the reason why I knew about the film and he was given star billing because of his teenie bopper fanbase.   However he was certainly not the star (this was really Kirk Douglas' film) nor was he considered the up and comer (Amy Irving was in the larger role).  However the scenes he did have were very creepy and he did rather well with the melodrama.

Now for the meat, I thought the film was rather amusing as a child.  Mainly because most of the subliminal, subconscious themes went right over my head.  But now, watching it recently as an adult the film has a distinct creepy, sleazy, degenerate layer to it that is a part of De Palma's more mature and established work.

From the get go, De Palma highlights how inappropriate the adult characters behave toward Stevens and Irving's innocent Hansel and Gretel characters.  The opening prologue shows Stevens' character Robin as a young, carefree boy at the beach who is coddled by his father, played by Kirk Douglas.  But all of this is observed by a leering Cassavetes (still coasting on his creepy charm that worked well in Rosemary's Baby).  Irving's character, Gillian, is also introduced the same way at a local beach but also objectified by middle aged men and stalked by a broken down psychic who looks like a classic man in a raincoat type.  The film continually creates mirror images of Robin and Gillian throughout the film.  Robin is a child who lost his mother, Gillian is a girl without a father.  The visions Gillian has of Robin start out in third person but progressively become more intimate until she is experiencing him in first person...real time.

The film is mostly from the view point of Kirk's Peter and Irving's Gillian.   Robin is rather a cypher, or is he?  Is Robin THAT different from Gillian?  The sexual element comes in again between these two, in that Gillian moves heaven and earth to find Robin.  She MUST have him, she must be near him.  It is Robin who rebels against the girl who is coming for him.  As she draws closer, Robin becomes more lustful, more erratic, more violent and more frightened.  Until he makes an ultimate decision that almost allows him to escape her.  The over the top visuals of the ending of the film are shocking in that they are an indication of a climax between the two young characters, a coming together, a mating.  This ends with the two becoming the alchemical hermaphrodite, the conjoined King & Queen.  Keep this in mind and it makes the shocking finale make more sense.

There are other elements in the film that I cannot write about fully since I'm not into conspiracy theories.  But if you are into themes about black ops spy rings, false flag shenanigans, MK Ultra and genetic super is all here in this film.

So I would advise everyone to look into it again with new eyes.  De Palma is at his best here, just before he fell into his Grand Guignol craziness.



Another year, another future year of Sarah Lane toiling away in soloist roles that she can dance in her sleep.  The only leading roles she will have are the ones that resident choreographer Ratmansky will fight to give her.  Because, at this point, the AD of ABT and its board are intent on letting her languish.  Meanwhile ABT pushes claw hands, pointy elbows, roller derby bodies and cheap dance tricks (snapping that head as you pirouette is just so impressive) as the epitome of grace.  Then they wonder why knowledgeable ballet fans are staying away in droves.  They can't even count upon Russian dance fans to attend anymore.  Gee, do you think its because they got burned one too many times with what ABT thinks is accomplished ballet dancers replacing their ill guest stars?  Even they turn up their noses now.

What is even more depressing is that the company has all the dancers it needs to renew itself.  But it is exactly those dancers that are being buried under dirt while the board champions the ugliest, ungainliest dancers I ever had the misfortune to watch dance.  And they crow about these dancers in places that actually KNOW classical form!  I die of embarrassment when they take these dancers on the road to Russia and France.  Holy cow, the cow is playing Swan Queen!

Well, I will continue to support Lane and other dancers who are holding up the fort that leadership is destroying.  But I only purchased two tickets for the past Spring Season and who knows about Fall.


Russian Ballerina

It is has been a long time since I've posted on Joy Womack.  Since the last time, she has been promoted to lead dancer with the Kremlin Ballet.

It is hard to gauge how much of an impact Womack is making in Russian dance circles.  Her videos are strictly centered on the process she undergoes to prepare for her appearances.  No doubt due to personal preferences and other professional factors, she no longer films her fellow dancers.  Despite a few shots of curtain calls, she cuts away from those for time factor.  So the films are in a sort of vacuum and many times Womack relates her fears that her dancing is not progressing fast enough or she isn't working hard enough.  The one thing I love about her videos is that it shows the kind of work ethic required to be a dancer.  It is never easy and it gets harder as a dancer's body ages.

However I do think the fact that she is now a lead dancer in a big company (on par with the Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest etc. here), shows that the Russian ballet circles have accepted her.  She danced a few weeks ago for President Putin himself, and THAT is not small potatoes at all.  Still it is hard to get Russian reviews, so a fan outside of Russia can't judge the reception.  I do see that Womack has improved enormously in the past year.  She has a Russian polish  on her dancing now that was rough last year.  She looked more American then as she powered through the steps.  But now the mix is more settled and her professionalism is a testimony to her hard work and the attentiveness of the Ballet Masters at the Kremlin.

In her last video, Womack's father has visited Russia in order to see her dance Swan Lake.  The film is a bit fuzzy but it shows how good she is and the appreciation of the audience.  When taking her father on a tour of Moscow a few fans stop her for her autograph and picture.  So clearly she is well known.

Eventually I think she wants to move on to a European or American company.  However I'm not sure if she would be entirely happy with that arrangement.  Western companies are no longer truly classical but really modern dance companies with classical elements.  Where would she fit in?  Russia is on the rise and perhaps she should stay to ride the zeitgeist wave.  Unlike Western companies, it is rare for Russian ballet companies to accept foreigners into their ranks.  I'm not sure if Womack fully realizes yet that she achieved something close to the impossible.

Below is a short video of the Kremlin Theater.  It is huge, with a curious mix of classical and modern architectural styles.   A very impressive place to dance!