“Ballet 422”: Jody Lee Lipes' New York City Ballet Documentary


In this beautifully muted documentary by cinematographer-director Jody Lee Lipes, a New York City Ballet company dancer gets and takes a chance to create his own show. At 25, newbie choreographer Justin Peck is perhaps not the most effusive fellow, but he does have vision, and the technically exacting fortitude to realize it. The same could be said for Lipes, whose reticent observational style, structured by the chronology of readying a debut production for its impending premiere, implies that all any movie really needs is the privilege to watch someone making something. And what's not to like about lovely young bodies in motion, striving for grace? In this context, the occasional breathtaking composition is basically gravy. Here and there absorbing counsel from more experienced collaborators, Peck commands his company of pretty young things with quiet determination. It's fun to imagine the looks on faces of viewers seeking Black Swan-style psychodrama and finding instead a procedural chronicle of tweaking light cues and dyeing costumes in washing machines, which is to say that the joy to be had from Ballet 422 runs so deep it seems wholly submerged. The film's last shot caps it off perfectly, with an elegant suggestion of cultural context.

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