8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
View this as a documentary; you'll be amazed,
This review is from: Gaite Parisienne (DVD)
I purchased this DVD thinking that I'd be watching a performance video, but Gaite Parisienne turned out to be a wonderful tribute to both the man who filmed it and one of his favorite dance performances. My 5-star rating is aimed at those who have an appreciation for big dance productions and a knowledge of the elements that go into staging these performances.
Starting in 1944, Victor Jessen went many times (hundreds?) to videotape countless segments of his favorite dance show at different venues. After about ten years, he spliced the pieces together as best as he could to try and synch up with a single musical recording (which he also made) from a 1954 performance. The result is truly amazing: a composite film of Gaite Parisienne, with scenes toggling from one performance to another--even with different casts!
There are four parts to this DVD:
THE PERFORMANCE (37 minutes). Video-wise it's literally low-budget, all b&w, with dance numbers that do not always sync up with the sound due to the incredible number of film snippets that had to be spliced together. Some of the camera angles would up chopping the heads off the dancers, but many others provided an audience perspective that creates a nice intimacy from an unusual vantage point. Think "documentary," and I'm confident you'll be okay with all the technical shortcomings. I'd strongly recommend turning on the explanatory subtitles and audio commentary (by Frederic Franklin, who danced the lead role of the Baron). It's a lively show, with lots of expressive choreography by Leonide Massine. Of course, the music is total fun.
FREDERIC FRANKLIN INTERVIEW (36 minutes). As one of the lead characters in the ballet, Mr. Franklin had tons of insight to virtually every aspect of the performances. He talks at length about his own experiences in creating roles and dancing the part of the Baron in Gaite Parisienne, Massine's influence on the production and the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo (beginning in 1938), numerous noteworthy dancers in the show, the vagaries of touring, and other characteristics of dance in the 1930's and 1940's. The interview with producer John Mueller took place in Cincinnati in October 2004; Mr. Franklin is still alive as of this writing (b. 1914).
SAGA OF VICTOR JESSEN (12 minutes). Perhaps the most amazing twelve minutes of any performance documentary I've seen. I won't spoil the surprise, but you will not believe how Mr. Jessen was able to be so prolific in filming his favorite dance company, over and over again, using crude equipment.
PRODUCTIONS FILMED BY JESSEN (2 minutes). Numerous lists of performances captured on film by Mr. Jessen over more than a decade.