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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Review: Ballet Blanc

Director: Anne-Sophie Dutoit
Screenplay: Anne-Sophie Dutoit
Year: 2019

Every now and then there are directors that dare make things differently in horror cinema. These directors and moviemakers are not pleased with following the general rules of horror cinema and they seek ways to be different. Such efforts bring movies that completely change the course of cinema and contribute new rules, for example, as to what “The Blair Witch Project” did that was later formalized in “Paranormal Activity” with the found footage style. However, there are other movies that can’t find the key and although they try, they never get to reach their objective.

In “Ballet Blanc”, Coco is an orphan boy that has a particular taste for ballet. As he practices ballet in a church choir, Ms. Willis, a witchy woman, glances over Coco and ends up adopting him. Not much later, Ms. Willis starts indoctrinating Coco in the dark arts, exposing him to violence, the exhumation of cadavers, and animal sacrifices. The behavior of both alarms the small town’s pastor and social worker, who finds out what is happening between them and is decided to stop them.

The director and screenwriter Anne-Sophie Dutoit (“To 66”) brings a movie that defies the rules of modern horror cinema and that is not for everyone. Inside the plot, she explores topics such as religion, abuse, and violence, int a frame that suggests the influence of the antichrist, in a setting that is visually dark, in sync with the written one. However, all of these in interrelated in a suggestive way and ends up being very confusing, particularly the final stretch.

This is the sort of movie that you ask yourself several times “what the hell am I seeing?” and, for its misfortune, not in the best sense. In her effort to bring something different. Dutoit crosses the line between the artistic and the absurd, spending too much time on the former. From the promotional poster, that has little to do with what the movie really is about, this movie sends serious signals about the problems it faces.

The script presents a story that on paper should have been more interesting than what is finally shown on the screen. The main problem it has is the little information it gives about some events, something that seems to be on purpose, but that makes the plot confusing. On top of that, the movie has some other technical issues that affect its enjoyment, as weak acting and dialogues, unrealistic reactions and characters, and a sound editing that on its own is capable of taking you out of it.

Director Anne-Sophie Dutoit will get the praise of many people (me included) for daring to do something different, but I don’t think that many will agree that her effort was translated into a good movie. “Ballet Blanc” tries so hard to be different that forgets to bring a coherent story and stays in a lethargy state with sequences that seem to be brought out of a dream. For those that enjoy experimental horror cinema, this is a good recommendation, but the rest won’t find much to like about this movie.

Ballet Blanc will be available on January 2020 in digital platforms and DVD from Indican Pictures.


  1. Hi, my name is actually Anne-Sophie Dutoit (not Anne-Marie in last paragraph)! I very much enjoyed your review, although I've got to say that I don't agree with some of your points. Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch, to name a few, where very conventional movies that relied on structure and momentum to propel story forward, but with pretty weak and generic acting (acting was actually sub-standard!). I think the plot of Ballet Blanc makes good sense on multiple levels and here's a comment from a viewer on Amazon that I think nailed it: "What I think is exceptional about Ballet Blanc is the way the director weaves the storyline in a compelling way that makes the viewer want to know more about the boy, his special powers and the connection to his being interrogated in the sterile room and his tutelage under the "witch" during the main storyline of the movie. The film is part horror, yes, but so MUCH MORE THAN THAT. It is a gifted director's homage to not just the horror genre, but to something that takes us beyond just a mystery or a thriller, but to indefinable places behind and beyond the main story.

    If you allow yourself to be immersed in Anne-Sophie's brilliant and original vision, you will come away from this movie, not just entertained, but will leave you thinking about it for a long time to come. It's one of those great movies that lingers and comes back to you days and weeks after viewing."

    Yes, movie-making is a very subjective affair! Just remember this from the premiere of 2001, A Space Odyssey, 1968:

    Rock Hudson stalked down the aisle, complaining, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?'' There were many other walkouts, and some restlessness at the film's slow pace (Kubrick immediately cut about 17 minutes, including a pod sequence that essentially repeated another one). The film did not provide the clear narrative and easy entertainment cues the audience expected. The closing sequences, with the astronaut inexplicably finding himself in a bedroom somewhere beyond Jupiter, were baffling. The overnight Hollywood judgment was that Kubrick had become derailed, that in his obsession with effects and set pieces, he had failed to make a movie.

    Thanks again!

  2. Greetings Ms Dutoit

    First off, it is an honor having an accomplished filmmaker commenting on my review. I apologize for writing your name wrong, it has already been corrected.

    I do agree with you comment on “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity”, but without getting into the quality of the movies, they are truly the staples of the found footage style and my comparison was on the line of just daring to try things that at the time were unconventional. The thing about plots like the one on this movie that dare to be so unconventional is that they doesn’t necessarily appeal to all audiences and the reviewer you quote brought out a perfect example in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, another movie I did not enjoyed but still consider it a cinema classic. In my case, I found the plot of “Ballet Blanc” to be confusing, but I do get that this might be intentional and have pointed out that there is certainly and audience that will find this appealing.

    Best of luck in your future endeavors and even when I didn’t gave the most positive review to your movie, I truly think that you are a talented director and will keep an eye out for your future projects.

    Thanks for passing by and commenting!

    1. Thank you for your reply, Mr. Yurei, yes, I hope there will be an audience for my artsy movie. It is so easy to sell out to Hollywood and make computerized scripts that do fine at the box-office -- but in 100 years who's going to remember them, right?! All the best again.

  3. Something Anne-Sophie stated about making people think long after... My neighbor watched this movie at the LA Film Festival with me and for 2 weeks after kept calling and asking me more questions about it. I would laugh as I didn't know the answers, but we talked about what "could" be the meaning of different things. Then when it came out in theatres in November he went again and took another friend to get a 3rd opinion. Not normally his genre, but he was so intrigued by the story, the going back and forth, he wanted to know more and thinks a sequel would help. :-)