Polina, danser sa vie (NR)

Drama 108 min. August 25, 2017
By Elizabeth Zimmer
A lot of star power, and the resources of three countries, went into the making of this subtitled dance-world weepie. Shot in French and Russian, it takes us from Moscow to Paris and ultimately to Antwerp, Belgium, showing us a young woman's emergence from tongue-tied-ballerina chrysalis into the body of a contemporary dancer, ready to advance her own creativity.

In its quiet way Polina is a gender-reversed, fictional version of last year's Dancer, the doc about Ukrainian Sergei Polunin, whose parents similarly sacrifice to help him reach the stratosphere, only to see him quit London's Royal Ballet and nearly abandon his art entirely. Married directors Valérie Müller and Angelin Preljocaj (she a director, he a distinguished French-Albanian choreographer, both transitioning here from docs to narrative film) base Polina on a graphic novel by Bastien Vivès, a young French artist. Actual Russian dancer Anastasia Shevtsova takes the title role, growing from a restless bunhead into a brave young modernist, hopping across international borders to seize opportunities (joining a French ensemble led by Juliette Binoche), surviving adversity, finding love and delivering herself from depression by choreographing her own work.

Images planted early in the film betray the path Polina will take; when we watch her move freely in the woods and commune with a moose, we guess that ballet may not be the last stop on her professional train.
Valérie Müller, Angelin Preljocaj Anastasia Shevtsova, Niels Schneider, Juliette Binoche Valérie Müller Oscilloscope Pictures


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