En Corps (Rise) – French Film Festival 2022 – Film Review

Cédric Klapisch is no stranger to an ensemble piece, as seen in his popular French trilogy starting with L’Auberge Espagnole starring Romain Duris and Audrey Tatou, and he continues with this formula in En Corps (Rise). Using a jeu de mot (play on words), the film’s French title provides that insight into the world of dance that Klapisch embraces wholeheartedly. En Corps invites us to become immersed in the world of dance focusing on Elise, as the star ballet dancer within the L’Opéra de Paris, and the dance corps when unexpected life situations provide a disruption within the predicted dance pathway.

Klapisch is renowned for providing a real-life documentary style perspective to his comedy-dramas. He remains true to form in En Corps as Elise is played by real life dancer Marion Barbeau and members from the Hofesh Schechter dance ensemble also appear throughout the film. Klapisch’s manner of filming the initial dance scenes with Elise and the dancers, as they await the beginning of a show, are captivating with wide angle shots, which is a classic filming technique but does not create intimacy. Therefore there is that juxtaposition within En Corps with edited close ups on Elise and the fragmentation of her body as the camera gracefully moves to film her arms and legs as she dances.

Marion Barbeau in En Corps
Marion Barbeau in En Corps

Equally, the camera depicts the behind the scenes with the limbering up by the dancers, and hidden sweeping glances into the corridors of the Opera de Paris. It is clear from the outset that En Corps is an antithesis to Black Swan, despite the similarities with the lighting, costumes and close ups as well as the ballet solo and a degree of intensity. However, En Corps imbues a healthier positive scenario, with its distancing in filming the dance scenes overall, compared to the claustrophobic paranoia infused scenes in Black Swan.

As such, Klapisch sets the stage for a myriad of contrasts to be discovered within En Corps, such as tradition versus modernity, which remains true to the filming style expected within Klapisch’s comedies. Thus, the film’s scenes of jétés, demi-pliés and the arduous strength training preparation required by ballerinas to appear both fragile and strong have an added real-life dimension. Whilst there may be that lingering air of predictability, given the inclusion of classic Klapisch elements, En Corps’ storyline deviates to takes us along a road to recovery and belonging for Elise. As a fellow dancer, albeit non-professional, it was easy for me to resonate with familiar scenes of having to warm up sufficiently but also having to embark on the various exercises when those inevitable injuries occur. All that it requires is one mis-step on a slippery floor or a fellow dancer to mis-calculate the timing for everything to come crashing down.

Klapisch’s expert direction intimately examines these angst-ridden moments of a ballerina’s mental and physical wellbeing. We are fully immersed within Elise’s dilemma but thankfully there is the injection of humour, not always successful, within moments that may otherwise seem bleak. Similar to the Danish film Darling, Elise has to learn to forge an identity outside of being a prima ballerina.

Marion Barbeau and Hofesh Schechter dance company in En Corps
Marion Barbeau and Hofesh Schechter dance company in En Corps

En Corps is a mesmerising and graceful film exploring the psyche of a dancer having to navigate a world outside of the dance microcosm which enables Klapisch to counter-act the sense of idealism. The filming of different expressions of dance such as street dancing allow Klapisch, implicitly, to introduce a class distinction in the film. Of course, there is always that burning question as to Klapsisch’s rationale for situating his latest film within the world of dance given the current climate.

It is fascinating, however, to observe Klapisch’s clear admiration of the fluidity of a dancer’s body. The dance sequences within the title credits contain slow motion shots of dance routines and the hand movements in effect; the cinematography is particularly dazzling. Barbeau, as Elise, delivers a tour de force, visceral performance guaranteed to leave audiences’ spellbound.

Klapisch’s filming of En Corps in Paris, once again, creates that familiarity with his existing film catalogue. There are balcony panoramic scenes similar to his film Someone, Somewhere, (Deux Moi) which also features François Civil, and as such Klapisch’s light social commentary underpins the film. Greater emotional depth would therefore have been beneficial for the peripheral characters as Elise’s interaction with family and friends are pivotal scenes within her development.

Marion Barbeau on the roof in En Corps
Marion Barbeau on the roof in En Corps

Klapisch seems to be making a point that dance is a universal form of expression as he wishes for audiences to be intoxicated by the extraordinary movement range, as well as the stresses, under which the body can perform and ultimately recover. En Corps is also a homage to other dance related films such as Beau Travail, the Red Shoes and Black Swan in exploring the connection between the mind and body.

En Corps is a film that embraces duality but will leave audiences transfixed by the beautiful dance performances. It is not assuming the role of offering any profound commentary as it aims to provide light relief. Overall, En Corps is an enjoyable film with emotionally engaging performances to provide welcomed escapism, with its dreamlike dance sequences. Hopefully it will also encourage audiences to discover their inner dancer no matter the style of dance.

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