Film Review: En Corps

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Film Review: En Corps
It’s been said that film is the ideal medium for capturing the sensual, kinetic quality of dance. Cédric Klapisch’s En Corps would seem to confirm that. Klapisch, one of France’s top directors (L’Auberge Espagnol, Deux Moi, Paris), possesses effortless mastery in both camera-work and editing, and when he films dancers he might be one of their partners. Even we theater-seat potatoes feel the exhilaration of bodies in joyful movement, sensuous interaction, painful accident — just plain life. If it’s one of those proverbial cases of the parts not quite adding up to a successful whole, still what pleasurable parts! En Corps is the story of Elise Gautier (Marion Barbeau), a young ballerina (actually, in her milieu she’s a mature woman of 26). At the top of her form, Elise has beauty, poise, control over her technique. She’s completely at home at the historical Opera Garnier, its mazelike backstage spaces, throngs of personnel, equipment sprouting as if in a mechanical jungle. But she’s also an emotional being, and when emotion gets the better of her she has an accident that may spell the end of her career. Opera Garnier grand staircase © Benh Lieu Song Elise is distraught, though not bitter, determined to go on with her life. Although Ms. Barbeau’s emotional register sometimes seems one-note, you can’t help being taken by her vivaciousness, and at the same time by her solidity: she’s someone with a grip on her emotional, as well as physical, center of gravity. The folks around her aren’t much help. Her lawyer father (Denis Podalydes) wants her to take up law, pointing out that even in the best case her body will give out one day. Her doctor is pessimistic about her dancing at all. Her physiotherapist, who happens to be her ex-boyfriend, is more concerned with his own emotional well-being. A Hollywood star vehicle might embark on a grimly uplifting comeback story, full of painful exertion, nervous breakdowns, a hunky (but soulful) love interest. The reason I’m a fan of Cedric Klapisch is his human comedy approach to movies, specializing in how life can go (usually gently) off the rails. When that happens, life also results in a “situation”, as in sit-com, but much more than that. People who wouldn’t have met or known each other are thrown together as compagnons de route or lovers. And so, Elise goes on a surprising (it shouldn’t be, given that this is a Klapisch movie) picaresque voyage to recovery — and discovery.
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Lead photo credit : A still of Elise Gautier in En Corps © Studio Canal at Youtube

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.