Neve Campbell showed her gutsy side with THE COMPANY. Not only did she take the stage with The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, she also took on the business side of show biz by being a hands-on co-producer of the film, starting with developing the script, going throught the studio grind, and finding just the right director in Robert Altman. When I talked with Campbell on December 10, 2003, the once and future dancer talked about getting back into ballet shape, the effects of cold on muscle tissue, and why Malcolm McDowell is a cinematic treasure.
The thing about Malcolm McDowell is his charisma that permeates without overpowering. Even in the small dollops of screen time afforded him in Robert Altmans THE COMPANY, he is undoubtedly the star, the fixed point about which the film revolves. And rightly so. He plays Aberto Antonelli, the artistic director of the eponymous company, The Chicago Joffrey Ballet, a dance troupe that, like any other artistic gathering, perpetually teeters between the sublime and the ridiculous. The irony here is that the film is co-written and co-produced by Neve Campbell who gets top billing.
The film tracks a year in the life of the company, from the first artistic proposal of a piece called Blue Snake, though to its premiere, which forms the film’s finale. It’s all seen though the eyes of Ry (Campbell), an up-and-coming member of the troupe who may or may not be on the verge of a professional breakthrough. She’s a featured performer, but it’s just enough to keep her waitressing on the side in order to make ends meet. Her story line is just one of the usual complicated skein of plots that are Altman’s trademark and which he navigates cinematically in such a way that it all falls together seemingly effortlessly. The result has a documentary feel, but one where the camera is always in the right place, telling us just enough, capturing the perfect moment that demonstrates why this group of people are so slavishly devoted to dance.
THE COMPANY is a celebration of dance par excellence not only for people who adore that art form, but also for those who heretofore have been immune to its charms. That alchemy that takes ego and commerce, passion and pain, and transmutes it into pure poetry, where human bodies become the stuff that dreams are made on, slipping the bonds of gravity and bone to become pure fluid spirit.