Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dancing her way toward freedom

A classically trained Russian ballerina wonders how much self-expression she must sacrifice in preparing for her audition for the Bolshoi Ballet. Anastasia Shevtsova, a real dancer, portrays Polina, the movie's title character as a young woman. Based on a graphic novel by Bastien Vives and directed by Valarie Muller and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj , Polina follows Polina from childhood into her 20something years. Initially, Polina studies with Bojinski (Aleksey Guskov), no-nonsense teacher who doles out compliments parsimoniously. When Polina travels to Moscow to try out for the Bolshoi, she falls for a French dancer (Niels Schneider) and decides to return to France with him, much to the dismay of her father. Miglen Mirtchev plays Polina's Dad, a man who has fallen into difficulties with the Russian mob but who always wanted to see his daughter become a prima ballerina. In France, Polina joins a company run by Lira Elsaj (Juliette Binoche), a character whose style is freer and more modern than anything to which Polina has been exposed. Trouble looms: An ankle injury hampers Polina's career and her romance falls apart, leaving her to travel to Antwerp, where she works as a bar tender. There, she meets Karl (Jeremie Beligard); you won't be surprised to learn that Polina and Carl wind up dancing together. Hardly groundbreaking, Polina nonetheless features two fine performances from the actresses who play Polina (Veronica Zhovnytska as the young Polina and Shevitsova as the more mature dancer). Polina isn't the deepest drama but the dancing elevates a story that sometimes feels predictable. Credit Shevtsova with creating a character who's trying to use her training and develop her own style. Polina doesn't necessarily want to throw away the past; she hopes to carry it into a more liberated future.

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