Retro Active Critique #19
Ballet, as a theme in films, tends to veer towards a dark tone. This is likely because ballet is a deeply disciplined and often painful form of art and expression (both physically and emotionally.) It is also because ballet is something that requires great commitment and sacrifice to even resemble anything close to what it is meant to be. Ballet is a terrific example of a lifestyle decision that is both incredibly freeing and confining to the individual who chooses it. This dichotomy along with conflicts inside the ballet world are what provide infinitely dramatic and interesting premises. Ballerinas, metaphorically, resemble caged birds who are only able to fly intermittently, both in life and in art.
Great films about ballet come around every once in a while and in light of a potentially entertaining one being released soon (Aronofsky's "Black Swan") it is time to unleash the greatness that is "The Turning Point". For any ballet aficionado, this is the film to watch. But "The Turning Point" is also a film in which someone with very little interest in ballet can also become immersed. It is a real story about realistic people. And for anyone with a decidedly male point of view who must unwillingly partake in a viewing, Tom Skerrit can be your comfortable reference point. He plays a masculine rarity of an ex-ballet dancer, one who marries his ballet partner, played by Shirley MacLaine. As two of their children reach the age when they have developed a desire to pursue a career in ballet - one of which, their eldest daughter, shows incredible potential to succeed - emotions are stirred within the couple that had been lost since the time when they left the world of dance to create a family. Anne Bancroft plays the aging ballerina (and there always is one, in any ballet story) who also takes a second look at her life choices when she is confronted with the life she never pursued, one that includes a family.
The final fallout between the characters played by Bancroft and MacLaine is a memorable cat-fight... people often reference it when this movie is remembered. But what is most captivating and continues to resonate are the genuine and complex emotions these people have about life and the choices they've made.
The dance scenes are also impeccable and beautifully filmed - and feature Mikhail Baryshnikov in his first film role. "The Turning Point" is a good one to watch if you feel like being swept into a drama that isn't terribly demanding, but still leaves an impression.