Championing a film that everyone else thinks is rubbish is about as much fun as can be had talking about film. Problem is you often go from liking a film a bit, to wide eyed evangelicism in a matter of days. I have noticed myself talking about The Company in this vein. I thought it was a rather nice ballet film, refreshing in its anti-narrative stance and revealing in its backstage normalcy. I have since found myself in pubs banging tables calling it the best film of the year. Check back in December I guess.

Here is a summary of what most critics seem to dislike about The Company:
a) The ballet is not all that good
b) There is no plot, no narrative and hence no real resolution
c) The backstage antics reduce to everyday people going about an often quite tedious job
d) Malcolm McDowell stands out like a sore thumb in his over acting campness
e) The whole film is a vanity project for Neve Campbell.

With the exception of point e) I agree with all the above, but crucially, these are the reasons why I really liked it. I also disagree that the film is a vanity project for Campbell. Her dancer may be slightly priviliged in the set-uo, but really we never see her as anything else but part of this company. Sure she produced and came up with the film. In which case, for a vanity project you would expect her to have some form of triumphant arc, not end up looking a bit stupid at the end.

What also seems to annoy the critics is Robert Altman using his interest in ensemble work to do not much else but portray the ensemble. The film is not really interested in a world outside it dance studios. Where is the biting satire of Nashville or The Player to eviscerate the ballet scene as middle class pretension. That Altman presents them as glamarously as bunch of brickies is much more subversive than pretending it is a puffed up world of poshos. There is not much money in ballet, with the possible exception of its afficionados, and the way Altman presents it there is not even all that much love for the art. What there is however is applicable to almost any work scenario, a sort of second hand camaraderie which is not unlike any office where people are working together to achieve a goal. The Company as a title is apt, Altman is not just talking about ballet here – he is talking about work. And it worked for me.