Rob Marshall could learn a thing or three about transporting dance to the big screen from NY Export: Opus Jazz, an adaptation of Jerome Robbins’s famed jazz ballet that’s directed with clean, muscular, majestic grace by Jody Lee Lipes (Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same) and Henry Joost (Catfish). Varying between master shots and close-ups, straightforward and inventive angles, the filmmakers’ treatment enhances rather than obscures the lithe, tumultuously expressive movements of their New York City Ballet cast. The dancers do grand justice to Robbins’s groundbreaking work, which, after a celebrated European run, premiered stateside on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958, and here—though retrofitted with modern outfits and staged on location throughout Manhattan—retains its horn-blowing, finger-snapping West Side Story–style cool. The film’s portrait of disaffected urban teens proves an evocative tribute to the vitality of youth, and ReRun will complement its theatrical run with a part history recap, part behind-the-scenes documentary, as well as a never-before-seen archival featurette on the ballet’s original production. Essentially wordless even in the concise sequences that connect the various routines, yet oozing seductive passion, sorrowful yearning, and playful joy, Opus Jazz is a brief but striking film that demonstrates the capacity of art—be it dance, music, or cinema—to speak volumes without saying a word.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 3, 2010