The trials and torture of ballet as both an art form and an industry are well documented in both fiction and nonfiction film. Directors Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai attempt to break new ground on this subject in their documentary Reset, but in their seriousness unfortunately fail to excite or entertain.
The nearly two-hour fearure follows dancer Benjamin Millepied, who has found fame in ballet circles as a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, and in other circles as the husband of Natalie Portman, who he worked with on the movie Black Swan. After being appointed as Director of Dance at the Paris Opera Ballet in October 2014, he sets about modernising the establishment and introducing his own ideas and methods. Facilities are improved, casts diversified and dancers gently encouraged to shine in their own individuality rather than scolded into conformity.
Shot as seriously and reverently as a museum installation, Reset lacks the drama and scandal of its competitor ballet documentary, Sergei Polunin’s biopic Dancer. There is precious little resistance to Millepied’s efforts to update the Company. The biggest setbacks during the time period of the feature are a series of technician strikes and the occasional bumped head during rehearsals. That’s not to say the film should have taken Black Swan’s toe-curlingly stressful approach to ballet, but the entire effort is somnambulantly free of jeopardy or suspense.
Despite this, Millepied is an enjoyable subject to follow. Whether brooding in his arty Paris flat or visualising routines in the studio, he is constantly moving, and his love of dancing and creativity shows in all of his work. He speaks eloquently and with passion about his craft, with the directors often pairing these monologues with beautiful slow motion footage of rehearsals and stage performances. He is praised by his colleagues for his progressive and modern approach to directing. Most importantly, we see his production of La Fille mal gardée, in which he casts a mixed race lead, the first ever in a classical ballet. In an age in which audiences for the classical arts, including ballet, are steadily dwindling, it is open-minded visionaries such as Millepied who must breathe life into these institutions and bring them into the 21st century.
Reset is released nationwide on 26th December 2016.
Watch the trailer for Reset here: