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Coppelia DVD

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This 1994 French TV presentation of Delibes' Coppelia reflects choreographer Maguy Marin's commitment to total theatre, seeking to find a fresh and exciting way of making ballet a rewarding experience on the home screen. One of the problems of filmed live ballet is the video presentation often fails to capture the experience of being in the theatre, something this dynamic production shot on location and in the studio circumvents in a highly visual way. Relocating Hoffman's tale of Doctor Coppelia's automaton and troubled young love to contemporary run-down urban France, the opening folk-dances are set around a hard-court game of football which unequivocally evokes the opening of West Side Story (1961). Throughout classical dance blends with modern, jazz, mine and physical theatre, while the adapted story offers a critique of the modern obsession with visual icons and the power of illusory fantasy over reality. Romantic, witty and filled with a surreal imaginative poetry in a lineage descended from the films of Jean (La Belle et la Bete) Cocteau and Michael (The Red Shoes, Peeping Tom) Powell, this is a Coppelia for anyone who enjoyed Mats Ek's Sleeping Beauty (1999). Purists be warned, Marin dispenses with half the score, making her version last just 60 minutes. On the DVD: The 1.77-1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen picture is excellent, benefiting greatly from being lit and shot like a feature film rather than the video of live ballet productions. The PCM stereo sound is equally good, making this widescreen presentation technically superior to other TV classical music releases from the same date. There is a 12-minute interview with Marin (in French with English subtitles) in which she outlines her background, her idea of theatre, and explains her conception of the film and explores why she cut so much of the original ballet. Also included are trailers of four other Arthaus releases and a multi-language 24-page booklet with full credits and notes on Delibes, Marin, Nagano and the performance. --Gary S Dalkin

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