Le Grand Bal, un film de Laetitia Carton

It’s the story of a ball, a big ball

It was on July 5th, the preview of Lætitia Carton’s movie Le Grand Bal, in the small Luminor, cosy movie theater in the Marais, historical neighborhood of Paris. It was followed by an amazing streetball organized by Paris Bal Folk, featuring Aurélien Clarambaux and Tony & The Sof. The screening was sold out, and all the Parisian dancers were squeezed at the entrance to discover the movie they waited for so long. For a year and a half they watched the trailer, with a big question in mind : beyond the trailer, will the movie represent the true spirit of Gennetines, le Grand Bal, and the atmosphere of bal folk. Will it be possible to send my close relations, the non dancer ones, to the movie and finally say ” Go see that movie, you’ll understand what I live and love in bal folk” ?

It’s the story of a ball. A big ball. Every summer, more than two thousand people come from all over Europe, to a small town in the French countryside. During 7 days and 8 nights, people dance again and again, lose the notion of time, defy their fatigue and their bodies. It turns, it laughs, spins, cries and sings. And life pulses.Synopsis by www.legrandbal.fr
The movie is a documentary of 1h39 long, with long traveling shots, allowing the audience to appreciate the atmosphere, the music, the people, with a voice over who, from time to time, explains the working of the ball, gives us a bit of context. It’s contemplative, it’s slow, it’s summer. Laetitia focuses on faces, people of all kind. She wants to represent the diversity of ages, new dancers and old ones, to alternate moments of joy and poetry, days and nights. Actions come one after another with no particular order or scenario, and still it makes sense. People speak about subjects that are the core of our dancing : consent, inclusion of beginners, respect for the partner’s body, and also the difficulties we share, difficulties for the new dancers to integrate, loneliness  and tiredness.

Le Grand BalLaetitia has the sense of humour. It’s light, it’s in the looks, the small phrases, details.

Click here for details. Possible spoilers.
There is a talent in editing that keeps the public captive to the movie and it’s small hints that makes the dancers laugh : the girl falling asleep while brushing her teeth, the attitude of the two young men when then meet in the jig, the little scouts briefing, people dancing in front of their lunch… And that couch that keeps coming back and every time you’re wondering “which type of people will sit there this time ?”

What if you’re not a dancer ?

As a dancer, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces passing by. A lot of “gosh I danced with that guy/girl too, I sooooo understand the smile on their faces”. Everyone is beautiful, the photography is gorgeous, and so is the music (of course). Everybody laugh when they see a familiar face, or a typical situation. I will ask non dancers, to see if they were captivated as I was. Some voices, some testimonies, are directly addressed to them, with accounts of people leaving early because they couldn’t integrate, people facing refusal because they’re not good enough. The movie shows the great humanity of bal folk, but isn’t hiding its flaws either.

A “neo” movie ?

I am not sure the movie will please to the more traditional dancers amongst us.

Click here for details. Possible spoilers.
I liked the traditional parts that were shown, the alternation of young dancers of bourrées and images from archives. I liked that gorgeous scene of Congo de Captieux where you can see so much interaction between the dancers. The movie talks a lot about mazurka as well, the one ending up in long hugs and shows bal folk dancers as nice hippies. The big ball is a mix of everything.

Laetitia Carton couldn’t show everything. I guess with all the images she shot, she could have made three movies, with enough images to please beginners, experts, traditional dancers and the mazurka-hug-contact-dancers… But for me, the fundamental is here, and the movie a success. It’s beautiful, it’s delicate. And it leaves you with a smile and wish to go back to Gennetines.

Le Grand Bal will be released in France on october 31th. Here is the list of the movie’s previews and their balls.