MASSIVE review of “The Turning Point” (1977…before my time)

15 Jul

Another movie review…this time, “The Turning Point” starring Shirley Maclaine, Anne Bancroft, Leslie Brown and Mikhail Baryshnikov.  By the way, I hope these movie reviews aren’t annoying…but please understand two things; number first, I didn’t engage the world of dance until a couple of years ago so all of these movies are still new to me, and second, I currently have waaaaay too much time on my hands and a fantashtik local library with a good (free!) selection.  In addition to “The Company,” I watched “The Red Shoes” a few months ago, and have “White Nights” on reserve.  “The Red Shoes” I don’t think I’ll be doing a review of (for now)…I’ve already forgotten many of the finer details, and I actually found it difficult to follow and really intense.  In other words, I’m pretty sure I’m too dumb to get that movie…but it was an interesting one nonetheless.  The drama and history of the whole Diaghilev and Ballet Russes era is one that I just barely scratched the surface of, and to those well versed in the history, it probably holds more significance (meanwhile, simpletons like me were hoping for a “Wizard of Oz” ballet…I’m an idiot).  However, I am starting to do a little research and such here and there and I really like “The Firebird” (one of my favorite Stravinsky works of all time), although there are parts that remind me of trippy Russian cartoons.  If you’re an Ohio State student and have ever been to Hagerty Hall (which is the foreign language building), the café on the first floor has several television screens that broadcast channels from all over the world, and sometimes there would be these DE-ranged Russian cartoons with lots of swirling colors and monsters that would continually morph into other monsters.  Your guess is as good as mine.

ANYWAY, so back to “The Turning Point,” I was really annoyed by the very first scene in the movie, which features the corps in the Kingdom of the Shades scene from La Bayadère.  It’s the famous moment where the shades are descending the platform contraption in a linear fashion, and pause to hold an arabesque.  I believe it was ABT that did the dance scenes for the movie, and the arabesques from those ladies were a hot mess.  The whole point of the corps, and especially that scene is to have all the arabesques completely identical, creating an illusion of eternity…like if you’re standing in a mirror while holding a mirror you get that infinite tunnel effect.  But some of those ladies were either too indulgent or just went to the arabesque they knew out of habit, and what you get is the same effect that the portrait of Stephen Colbert at the Smithsonian American History Museum produces:

Note sloppy corps...

Note sloppy corps...

But corps aside, I really loved this movie.  No other ballet movie shows so many variations from the big ticket classics, while this one has the aforementioned scene from La Bayadère, the slave Ali variation from Le Corsaire, pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty, pas de deux from Romes & Jules, selected scenes from Swan Lake and Giselle (now I know why Jess had us do 685047880546 entrechat quatre on a diagonal, which seemed like torture at the time), and everyone’s favorite grand pas de deux and coda from Don Quixote.  Baryshnikov, or “Misha” as one should call him in order to appear as though they can mingle with ballet’s most knowledgeable elite, is something else.  A gracious partner, superb technique and an uncanny ability to really connect movements in a phrase rather than a series of steps.  I do think Misha likes to throw his head back just a wee bit too much (some call it expression), and I find his pirouettes to look kind of crazed and almost too tight…he doesn’t exactly make them look easy, even if he is reeling around ten of them.  He’s a little pumpkin dynamo and deserves the praise he gets, but I have a tendency to be less enamored with people who are full of themselves.  For him to be playing the skeezy, womanizing Yuri in Turning Point, and many years later to also play a stuck up, arrogant character again on Sex and the City (a show that I feel has set women back 25 years), just makes me feel like his acting had to be drawing on real experiences if you know what I’m sayin.  But I shan’t criticize further…because in the end he is an epic dancer.  I just choose to worship in the church of Acosta (who I believe is substantially taller, making his ability to move with impeccable technique even more impressive to me).

Meanwhile, I have to say that Anne Bancroft played a very convincing withering ballerina.  For someone with no dance background, she certainly picked up on how to carry herself.  11 Oscar nominations for the movie was a little much, but I dig Anne’s portrayal of Emma.  There’s a scene where she even throws a drink on DeeDee (Shirley Maclaine), which was totally improvised so you know Shirley was surprised, and what a genius moment that was.  DeeDee is an obnoxious, whiny character who is always blaming others for her problems, and Maclaine did a great job of making me dislike that character.  But back to Emma, apparently Audrey Hepburn was even offered the role, which she turned down and was quoted as saying that that was the one she regretted not doing.  Sucks to be her…or not.  Anyway, Emma was probably my favorite character, and replace her 3 Yorkshire terriers with malteses, subtract the illustrious ballet career, fabulous New York apartment, and I’m thinking that’s where I may be when I’m in my forties.  I should be so lucky, no?  But muchitos kuditos to her and Shirley…a two “Venga!s” up for the both of them!

Anyway, a definite must watch for all ballet fans, and a particularly good one for non-ballet people too, since it’s a crash course in the classics.  Leslie Browne is an adorable little baby bunny, unseasoned at the time and did well for herself as an actress too.  And how can anyone not like her as a drunken corps member in Giselle? *cough* Gelsey Kirkland *cough*  Or her ridiculous Russian/Soviet persona she assumed in the bar to get drunk in the first place?  Clearly, she and Nikolai Alexander Vladimirovicherov could have an interesting conversation or two over vodka and caviar.  Like some of my favorites from the movie:

Favorite performance:

Lucette Aldous (Australian Ballet principal dancer) as Odile in the Black Swan pas de deux.  Totally sinister and saucy.

Favorite quote:

Michael: Little Arnold’s ambivalence is showing…

Arnold: Don’t get bitchy, Michael.

Michael: I’m not referring to your sex life.

PS. Michael is loosely based on Jerome Robbins.  Stephen Sondheim once said that the 2 things Leonard Bernstein feared were God and Jerome Robbins. ::snicker::

Other favorite quote:

Emilia: What happened between you and Michael?

Emma: Oh…um, priorities.

Emilia: Oh.  He liked boys better than girls.

So brilliant, so fabulous.  And to conclude this marathon entry, I leave you with the funniest pictures I could find that had anything to do with this movie…(actually, the only pictures I could find)

Director Herbert Ross joins in on the fun.

Director Herbert Ross joins in on the fun.

Courtesy of   Be sure to check out their site for more hilarious sleevefacing.

Courtesy of Be sure to check out their site for more hilarious sleevefacing.

And a quick note to my readers…I see that I’ve had a reader in Brazil!  Youdancefunny has officially reached its third continent, and I feel crazy honored.  So thank you ALL for reading, and I hope my blogging efforts are entertaining for you.  Feel free to complain or slap me if they aren’t.

4 Responses to “MASSIVE review of “The Turning Point” (1977…before my time)”

  1. melissa April 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    What were the name of the ballet variations during the Gala? I always wondered and tried to pause for a moment to get the names of the ballets that were supposedly performed in th eGala by the other dancers other than the main characters.. Thank you!

    • youdancefunny April 21, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

      Hi! The gala variations were as follows:

      1. Aurora’s Wedding from Sleeping Beauty by Petipa
      2. Legende by Cranko
      3. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux by Balanchine
      4. Black Swan Pas de Deux by Petipa
      5. Anna Karenina (choreographed by a fictional character in the movie, but actually done by Dennis Nahat)
      6. Ellingtonia (choreographed by a fictional character in the movie, but actually done by Alvin Ailey)
      7. Le Corsaire by Petipa

      It’s a wonderful selection!

  2. M December 21, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    I miss Miss Bancroft. *sniff*
    I’ll never understand why Emma didn’t just marry her choreographer, Michael Cooke, when they were, say, thirty. Was Michael commenting on his own sex life as well as Arnold’s, when he made that snarky little comment?

    I liked Ms. MacLaine in the movie. It’s hard to be a mom of three kids and a dance teacher.

    (I heard Gelsey Kirkland was offered Lesley Browne’s role. I’m kind of glad she didn’t take it.)

    Thank you for your review.

    • youdancefunny December 21, 2010 at 11:46 am #

      Thanks for commenting! A lot about Emma didn’t make sense to me…and yet it did, because ballet is just that weird sometimes.

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