Even before I sat down to watch Frederick Wiseman’s “La Danse,” I asked NWFF executive director Lyall Bush if I might have the movie poster when the run was done. A few days later, Lyall said “Yes” (for a small contribution, natch).
I love the poster, but it’s misleading. Wiseman framed shots of isolated body parts less than a handful of times in the 2 1/2 hour film. I asked Lyall what he thought of the film’s absence of detail … was Wiseman saying something about holding to the integrity of the full body?
His reply got to the art of the whole film for me.
Yes — I know. Wiseman’s grown, spiritually and philosophically, into a full-body director. He must know that we long for the metonyms, the hands and noses and nervous feet, but I think he wants us to see the room, the palace, the city. There are moments earlier in his career — “High School,” “Near Death” — with closer-in shots, and watching them now you have to wonder how those teachers, those Central Park zoo staff, those ER doctors allowed the cameramen to get so close to their faces. But there you are. On the other hand, maybe the French prefer the palatial and wrote it into their contract.
“La Danse” plays at Northwest Film Forum through Dec. 16, 2009.