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Documentary Man

By TOM MEEK  |  December 9, 2009

So the real answer to your question is I don't know why people give permission. However, you can't underestimate the power of vanity or that most people enjoy having their picture taken.

La Danse is your second film on ballet; do you have a passion for ballet?
I like ballet and since the year 2000, I've spent about half of every year in Paris. I've directed some plays there and I like living in Paris. When I am there, I go to the ballet a lot, so I thought, 'why not do another ballet movie?' It's a great dance company and in a variety of ways it's different from the America Ballet Theater which is where I shot Ballet. It happened at the time I was having a retrospective in Paris and one of the administrators of the ballet company had seen some of my films and recommended to the woman that runs the company that this might be a good idea.

How many ballets are in the film? There is the Nutcracker and several other experimental pieces that you follow from rehearsal to stage.
There are seven, but not all are shown in performance.

So what should people take away fromLa Danse?
Ballet is a beautiful art form that requires an incredible amount of discipline, patience, and endurance.

In the movie, you shoot a gala for the 'American friends' who come over for an expensive 'ballet tour' weekend. Some of them were members of the now defunct Lehman Brothers.
The sequence was shot before Lehman Brothers collapsed. As it was shot, it was interesting to see that there were rich people who were willing to pay 25-grand for a five-day tour of Paris, which included a tour of Paris and a behind the scenes tour of the ballet company. After, when the movie was edited, the financial meltdown had occurred and Lehman Brothers had disappeared. So the current events and the passage of time added a whole new dimension to that scene.

Have you seen reality TV shows likeDancing with the Stars?
No comment. I watched a reality TV show once for two minutes and shut it off. It just didn't interest me. It's a uniformed reaction, but in two minutes it seemed set up or they were just going for sensationalism.

What about documentaries with the filmmaker in them, like those of Michael Moore?
I don't think about Michael Moore. I have not seen a lot of those movies with the filmmaker as a character in it, though there is no reason a film with the filmmaker in it can't be good. The ones I have seen with the filmmaker in it are not that good. For example, I happen to be a fan of Marcel Ophüls, and he's in all his movies and his movies are good because he's very smart and asks terrific questions and puts them together in imaginative and interesting ways. I don't think the way I work is the only or right way to make a documentary. Plus, films that are ideologically slanted have no surprise to them. Why make a movie when you know how it will turn out? I like to be surprised when I make a film.

What inLa Danse surprised you?
The amount of skill and hard work that went into the dancers' work.

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