"Le Bal" ("The Ball") is an unique experience for movie lovers out there, specially those who enjoy musical numbers. The movie specialty lies in the fact that throughout the 50 year story of a French ballroom there's no dialogs at all. Ettore Scola and his team of writers throw away the words replacing them with music (the only voices heard comes from the radio or the singers of the place), acting, dancing, the actors actions and expressions, body language used to the fullest, the costumes from each period visited by the film (going from the 1930's up until the 1980's) and the incredible art-direction that reveals small changes while staying in the exact same place.
It's more like a testament piece of what art does to people or its meaning through the ages than a movie concerned in making a speech. Scola explores the Jazz era, the WWII, brilliantly presented with a lack of music, the darkened ballroom and the people hearing the bombs falling somewhere near; there's even the rock n' roll explosion with rude characters tearing the place apart with their noise and excitement; the Beatlemania and his memorable songs (repesented here with two versions of "Michelle"); the colorful disco era among others. The creators from "Le Bal" picture the periods the way they used to be, and they all happen in the ballroom amidst laughters, dancing, styles, behavior, sensations.
Rescuing a little the techniques of a silent film, "Le Bal" is a seductive, fascinating and powerful movie that can be used to work with acting methods, nuances, how to use the expression. The actors, always the same in each decade, and almost playing the exact same part with some changes, say much more without words than many famous actors out there. Their communication skills are amazing. Take a look at the beginning of the movie with the introduction of the female characters entering the ballroom. They're anxious, can't wait to meet their dance partners. They all express the same thought, their faces show variations of this at the same time. And they're skillful dancers as well, going through all the decades, dancing to all the different styles in the most impeccable way.
It's a magical work, a little tiring in some parts, but fabulously well made, constructed with precision. Light-hearted, warming and echoing some many different genres into one, "Le Bal" can put to shame many musicals out there, including many from the Metro, specially in the matter of being real and magical at the same time. The most incredible sequence of the movie involves the welcoming of a man, friend of the frequenters of the place, who returned from the war. His friends look at him with sadness in their eyes, the music stops. What happened? He lost his leg. Our thoughts (audience and characters) are the same: he'll no longer dance. But no. He walks through the room, compliments one of the women there and they start dancing, he's jumping with his remaining leg. He's not clumsy at all, he does it with perfection. And there's plenty of beauty in this moment.
Tragedies go by but the art, the joyful moments stays on. "Le Bal" is a proof of that. 9/10