Tuesday, January 2, 2018

All about Marcelo Gomes in Barber/Pellerito's doc, ANATOMY OF A MALE BALLET DANCER

Going into the new documentary, ANATOMY OF A MALE BALLET DANCER, the two-man show all about Marcelo Gomes, the popular ABT principal ballet dancer (who resigned from the company only last week, as the latest casualty in the sexual misconduct investigation craze that's currently sweeping the country), which has been directed, written, produced, photographed and edited by David Barba and James Pellerito (they did the sound, too!), TrustMovies knew almost nothing about the famous Mr. Gomes, as he no longer follows ballet, and knows of it mostly what he garners from the occasional documentary on the subject and/or its famous dancers (for instance, Wendy Whelan, Misty Copeland, and Sergei Polunin).

Initially at least, this movie seems like others in the rather long list of worshipful bio-docs, but Misters Barba and Pellerito (shown above, with Barba on the left), dig a little deeper into that promised titular anatomy.

And though we see plenty of the handsome and very sexy Gomes, shown at left and below, what comes through slowly but sufficiently and efficiently is why and how the dancer has been able to achieve such prominence and love, not only from audiences worldwide but from so many of the ballerinas he has partnered over his 20 year career.

His technique, as we soon learn, has been crafted well and then put in service to those ballerinas. As he explains to the class of young male dancers he is teaching, "You guys are the one who are driving the car, giving her the chance to be all lyrical and do her thing!" And from all the praise that is heard from one ballerina after another, Gomes may be the best partner each of them has ever had.

We learn a lot about this dancer's history, particularly family history, especially of his dad, who was hugely helpful and encouraging early on. But once dad left the family and married again, he seems to have totally deserted his son, emotionally and otherwise. When the filmmakers interview him, he certainly "presents" well. But it's all blather and verbiage. In this case, his actions (or, really, his non-actions) speak infinitely louder than his words.

Via some very good archival footage, we're privy to Gomes in his younger years (below) and see him mature and grow as a dancer.

Location-wise we move from Greece to New York City, Brazil to Boca Raton, Kiev, Saint Petersburg and finally Tokyo, and in each spot we see some wonderful dancing, our appreciation of which only grows as we better understand how Gomes couples his sterling technique to enormous charisma, sensitivity and especially generosity in his partnering.

As the movie moves on, we view ever more of his solo work, and -- oh, my god -- is it impressive. He may be a great partner, but he shines even brighter when he has the spotlight to himself.

Did I also mention that Marcelo Gomes is an out-of-the-closet gay dancer? We learn something of how this happened and the gay "uncles" he credits for helping educate him on what is important in life, as well as giving him his first taste of and for the ballet. The fellow appears to have a good and productive sense of humor about ballet, being gay, and much else, too.

The documentary has no "outside" narration, as such. It is mostly visuals accompanied by Marcelo telling us about his life and career. This works just fine. We see and hear about the injuries and pain, and also about the various ballets and what these mean to the dancer: The role of Albert in Gisele is the ultimate ballet for this guy, while La Bayadere is a "beast" that must be conquered.

Conquer he does -- the ballets and the audiences -- while the filmmakers and their work conquer us. Balletomanes will probably flock to this film, as will gay audiences looking for a hero who's handsome, hot, talented and still very much driven to dance. Or at least he was, prior to his sudden resignation from ABT amidst an investigation into sexual misconduct said to have occurred nearly a decade ago.

TrustMovies admits that he knew nothing about this investigation while watching the film nor even while writing this review. I came upon the recent news only when, as I readied this post for publication and Googled Gomes' name to find the proper site to which to link, up popped this startling information. Talk about that rug being pulled out from under you. I immediately re-read my review, but rather than change anything (save adding the mention of the allegation), I am leaving it as is. Gomes' life and work, as we are shown them, are worth knowing and seeing. And his dancing is extraordinary.

As with Kevin Spacey, whose talent and skill has given us countless pleasures, that work deserves to be seen and honored. It's the misuse of power via sex that must be acknowledged and corrected. Whatever happened is between the abuser and his abused -- and the workplace, if that should enter into things, and finally the law, too, if this appears appropriate.

Meanwhile, Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer -- from Retribution Media and Cinema Tropical and running 83 minutes -- opens tomorrow, Wednesday, January 3, for its world theatrical premiere in New York City at Film Forum for a two-week engagement. Elsewhere? I hope so, but there's no word as yet. I expect the distributors will wait to see how things go in New York City.

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