REVIEW: First Position

9 12 2012

First PositionI know it’s fruitless to spend too much time speculating “coulda been, shoulda been” over hypothetical questions.  But for the 90 minutes of “First Position” – which somehow managed to feel like 9 hours – I couldn’t help but think what a wasted opportunity the documentary was.  Bess Kargman could have really made an enlightening film about dance.

But instead, Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” a werewolf ballerina film, did a better job convincing me of the price of ballet and the dedication it takes to succeed.  The physicality, the mental tenacity, the demands of time – all perfectly portrayed and stylized by Aronofsky in ways that subtly sneak up on you.

Kargman makes an entire documentary about these things, and they land so softly you barely notice them!  “First Position” really could have been “The REAL Black Swan,” if you will, but instead it settles for mediocrity and tedium.  It’s a hodgepodge of admiring the craft of ballet and a competition doc, committing to neither fully and as a result feeling wishy-washy.

(Sounds like Kargman could have used the words and wisdom of Ron Swanson in the editing room: “Never half-ass two things.  Whole ass one thing.”)

I get that it’s an art and a sport, and I love that.  But focus on the incredibly dichotomy there!  Don’t give me two-second profiles on a few of the dancers that feel incomplete and erroneous … and then expect me to care or feel emotionally attached later.  And know that the crowd who goes to see documentaries like this have most likely seen “Black Swan” and have intense pre-conceived notions about how grueling ballet is.  Play with it, go with it, soar with it.

Don’t give me what ultimately arrived in my iTunes library on VOD as “First Position.”  Because as of right now, it’s at last position among the documentaries I’ve seen in 2012.  C-1halfstars


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