Friday, April 13, 2012

Relive Love Lies Bleeding Online

If you had trouble getting tickets to Alberta Ballet’s popular Love Lies Bleeding, an homage to the life and often hard times of singer-songwriter Elton John, take heart.

Because on Monday, every seat in the house is yours.

And everything is up close and in depth.

That’s the intention of Moze Mossanen, director of the performance film of the smash 2009 Alberta Ballet production of the same name. Mossanen filmed over five days last October at the Banff Centre’s Eric Harvie Theatre.

Produced by Calgary-based White Iron Inc., Mossanen’s one-hour adaptation of the Jean Grand-Maitre ballet airs for the first time on Monday on CBC Television.

“I really wanted the film to be its own thing, a complete entity,” Mossanen says.

Arguably the most popular among the trio of ballets Grand-Maitre created based on songs of pop superstars (Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan are the others), Love Lies Bleeding bowled over critics and audiences alike in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto.

There’s a Love Lies Bleeding gig at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre in 2013 and a performance in Les Grandes Ballet du Montreal’s next season, plus a tour on the U.S. West Coast.

More than anything else the company has done, the show has put Alberta Ballet on the international map.

So how different is the film from what thousands of ballet and music lovers saw onstage?

The Toronto-based filmmaker recalls that the major change to Grand-Maitre’s conception of Love Lies Bleeding lay in turning the central Elton Fan figure of the ballet into more of an “avatar for Elton himself,” through cutting to images that show what’s going on in the legendary performer’s head, what he’s thinking — something that could never be shown on the theatre stage, Mossanen points out.

“We made him a much bigger part of the film, so people get a sense of ‘Oh, this guy’s imagining himself to be Elton’ — and this whole thing is weaving in and out of his imagination,” says Mossanen, a freelance producer/writer with 20 years’ experience of directing for television, primarily in the area of converting stage work to story film for the small screen.

The rejigging of the character into someone substantial enough for television more than offsets the necessity of doing away with some of the songs in the 105-minute live Love Lies Bleeding to fit the 60-minute made-for-TV format.

Deciding which songs would go and which would stay was difficult, Mossanen says.

He points out that the broadcaster’s initial idea was to get rid of the some of the lesser-known songs.

“But I thought those, such as The Bridge and Sixty Years On, were some of the most brilliant pieces,” the director says. “They almost sounded to me like brand new Elton John songs because we haven’t heard them that much before.

“So for me, it was really important to keep them. But at the same time, I thought the content of those pieces was really important.”

In the end, “They made their case and I made a counter-case — and I think we found a happy medium.”

For Alberta Ballet principal dancer Yukichi Hattori, who alternated in the Elton Fan role with Kelley McKinlay in live runs of the show, and plays the part in the TV adaptation, the enhancement and reimagining of his role means close-ups, definitely not something he has to worry about in cavernous venues like Calgary’s Jubilee Auditorium.

“The cameras get much closer than you would ever be (seen) onstage, so my facial expressions definitely had to change toward a more subtle feel,” Hattori says. “No theatre acting, so to speak.”

To suit a cinematic world where dissolves and fades are part of the everyday currency, there were inevitable tweaks to Grand-Maitre’s choreographic scheme of things — all made with Grand-Maitre’s blessing and active participation, according to Mossanen.

The filmmaker arrived at his multiple camera setup — tracking cameras and cameras on cranes — from repeatedly watching archival video footage of the ballet as recorded by a single camera at the back of the Jube during the show’s premiere run. From start to finish — preparation, shooting, and feature-style final edit — the film has taken almost two years to complete.

Hattori is excited for what the film will bring to the world of dance.

“It’s definitely the way of the next generation of dance experience, (because) there’s so much more you can do.

“I can’t wait for the reaction”

- Calgary Herald

Behind the scenes video clips and show footage can be viewed at

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