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Volume 34
Issue 36
 
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Newly Released on DVD: Ballets Russes and W.T.C. View
Newly Released on DVD: Ballets Russes and W.T.C. View
by Derich Mantonela - SGN A&E Writer

Two films, one of them an amazing dance documentary which was a theatrical hit in Seattle earlier this year, another, referred to by its publicist as "The Gay 9/11," which many of us had not previously had the chance to see, are just out on DVD - both have inherent Gay themes and are good movies by any criteria and should make for a welcome addition to your film library.

BALLETS RUSSES

This is an extraordinary document of Twentieth Century dance, an overview of the expatriate Russian dancers, choreographers, and others (eventually nearly two dozen nationalities were involved) who formed the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and rival Original Ballet Russe, with generous archival footage (some of it, from private collections, never before available) and dozens of filmed interviews with the actual participants, most of whom are in their eighties and nineties, colorful, charming, idiosyncratic personalities (many of them active to this day in various dance-related fields and academics). These luminous, brilliant artists tell fascinating, humor-laced, insider tales and intrigues of troupes which thrived in the mid-century, sidestepped World War II, barnstormed across America and much of the world, then went out of business four decades ago, yet remain fresh and dynamic in their memory. (The film was born when its makers decided to attend and to film a fortieth anniversary reunion of the dancers, many of whom had not seen each other in all that time).

Some of the legendary names in modern dance are interviewed and/or discussed by those who worked for them: Diaghilev, Massine, Stravinsky, Balanchine, Agnes DeMille, the "baby ballerinas," Wakefield Poole (yes, the one who made the Gay porno classic "Boys In The Sand"), Seattle's Marc Pratt (who starred in some of the classic movie musicals of the Fifties), Raven Wilkinson (pioneering Black ballerina), Yvonne Chouteau and Maria Tallchief (Native American ballerinas who became superstars), and many other notables.

Amazing movie. Whether or not you are a dance aficionado (this film may well turn you into one). This is dynamic, exciting, and intriguing - fun stuff.

All of us who love art and man-made beauty are in debt to Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller for putting together this document for the ages and to Zeitgeist for releasing it.

W.T.C. VIEW

This is writer/director/producer Brian Sloan's filmed version of his play, "W.T.C. View," based very closely on his own 9/11 experience.

The premise is simplicity itself, and is the work's strongest aspect. Sloan placed an ad on 9/10/01 in the Village Voice to find a roommate for his apartment in SoHo (with the "View" of World Trade Center of the title) to replace the man who had recently left.

Bizarrely, the calls began coming right after the towers went down, and Sloan (out of economic necessity) started showing the apartment to potential renters almost immediately. All of them had their own perspective on 9/11 and they, together with wise and loyal gal-pal Josie, a married woman with issues of her own, form the "supporting cast" of this very personal, very claustrophobic drama.

Sloan has an ear for New Yorkers' flip, often brusque, and sometimes ironic yet very much to the point dialog, and a feel for its brilliant, desperate, and disparate characters.

He's blessed with a real find in the central role (thinly disguised, if at all, as "Eric"), played by Michael Urie, as a young man whose "sensibilities" are unwaveringly Gay but whose "sense" is that of a straight-forward realist whose survival instincts have been strained to the max by horrors unimaginable by those of us who weren't eye-witnesses to 9/11.

Little wonder that, as we watch him in the days following THAT awful day (the camera never leaves the apartment until the very end, and then with pointed symbolism) Eric/Brian is clearly going mad. Sleeplessness feeds his paranoia (that another attack is inevitable), yet the steady stream of phone calls regarding the apartment, and those who come to see it in person, and dear Josie (whose performance by Elizabeth Kapplow transcends the usual fag-hag turn) continues. A brief stab at sex with a handsome young man is really about the need for isolated and abused human beings to share some tenderness and affection, while the evil perpetrated upon them by other human beings makes that almost impossible to accept, even as a gift without strings attached. Can we ever allow ourselves to become vulnerable again?

Trial and redemption by fire? Is there going to be relief, escape, or long-term emotional survival? That's the drama which fuels this sad, poignant, compelling, shockingly personal testament.

A TLA release.

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