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The Paris Opera (L'Opera) (NR)

Documentary 110 min. October 18, 2017
By Nick Schager
Access is imperative for a documentary like The Paris Opera, a behind-the-scenes portrait of the title organization's 2015 season under new director Stephane Lissner. Yet as it turns out, it's the sole reason Jean-Stephane Bron's nonfiction film exists — since the doc itself certainly has little in the way of an actual point to make. From meetings about finances, labor issues and scheduling to rehearsals with opera singers, ballet dancers and young and adult orchestral musicians to conversations conducted in offices, at press conferences and in the makeup chair, no day-to-day aspect of this grand operation is ignored. Such sprawling comprehensiveness, however, comes at the expense of a narrative or thematic focus. Only in the figure of 21-year-old aspiring baritone Mikhail Timoshenko -- who must learn French while preparing to take the spotlight -- does the movie find an engaging (if sporadically seen) center of attention; otherwise, its many people, topics and dilemmas get dispatched almost as quickly as they're introduced.

Beautifully shot and gracefully edited, The Paris Opera presents the myriad difficulties faced -- and small and large triumphs achieved -- by the artistic institution, which continues to thrive almost 350 years after it was originally founded. Unfortunately, the film has nothing much to say other than that the enterprise is inherently complicated -- which isn't point enough for 111 minutes of screen time.
Jean-Stephane Bron Film Movement

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