Bolshoi Babylon

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Mark Franchetti Nick Read

Starring

Maria Alexandrova Maria Allash Sergei Filin

Anticipation.

Is cinema going to bring down one of the world’s most beloved entertainment institutions?

Enjoyment.

Not by a long shot.

In Retrospect.

Maybe more interesting as a behind-the-scenes exposé than it is a piece of hard journalism.

A behind-the-scenes look at Moscow’s famous arts institution that offers scant rewards.

The Bolshoi Ballet is a byword for consummate artistry and a world leader in classical dance. Behind the red velvet curtain is enough corruption, fierce rivalries and even violence to rival any palace intrigue. A mere 500 metres from the Kremlin, we find the Bolshoi on the verge of meltdown in Nick Read and Mark Franchetti’s documentary.

A hint that all wasn’t well in paradise surfaced when a masked man threw acid in artistic director Sergei Filin’s face. It emerged that the assailant was paid by a principle male dancer, angry at Filin for overlooking his girlfriend’s abilities, the incident was chalked up as a case of revenge. Yet the investigation opened a window on a murky and unstable world run by people who skirt that very thin line between passionate artists and Bond villain-style megalomaniacs.

In Bolshoi Babylon, we don’t really learn any more than that. It appears that becoming involved in the ballet at this level requires political discretion that some find uncomfortable. We meet dancers thrilled to endure intense physical and psychological pain to realise their childhood dreams. We see them smiling nervously and hesitant to acknowledge the rot, lest they incur the ire of their shady masters. Between interviews there are sundry shots of dancers practicing tirelessly and some archive footage of past greats on stage.

It’s interesting how the directors allow subjects to think that they are at the centre of the film, while in the edit, the testimonies are played against one another as a way to emphasise the internal conflict. Maybe it’s unfair to suggest the results would be similar were you to turn your cameras on any commercial enterprise of this size, yet the conclusion that crooked politics, wayward egos and a climate of fear are core to the Bolshoi’s day-to-day activities hardly makes for breaking news.

Published 7 Jan 2016

Anticipation.

Is cinema going to bring down one of the world’s most beloved entertainment institutions?

Enjoyment.

Not by a long shot.

In Retrospect.

Maybe more interesting as a behind-the-scenes exposé than it is a piece of hard journalism.

Read More

Black Swan

By Matt Bochenski

If Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky’s claim to creative genius, it’s one that is undermined by the film’s own dual nature.

review

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

By Emma Simmonds

Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland offers a fascinating and outrageously funny look at the New York bohemian.

review LWLies Recommends

The Russian Woodpecker

By Sophie Monks Kaufman

Ukrainian artist Feder Alexandrovich serves as a key witness to the untold story of the Chernobyl disaster.

review LWLies Recommends

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, LWLies has been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design