Rise of a Star Review

Rise of a Star is a 2017 short film about a new ballerina with a secret liable to undermine what she has spent a whole life on.

With some striking imagery, bold colors, and gorgeous closeups, James Bort‘s new short film Rise of a Star (French: Naissance d’une étoile) is at first, a visually resonant film. With strong themes of female empowerment and what it means to be a woman in a world where defining such is contested and often restricted, this is a timely and thought-provoking experience.

We meet Emma (Dorothée Gilbert), a talented and greatly celebrated young dancer about to be named the new Ballerina at the Bolshoi, though she carries a secret that she is hesitant to reveal. She is pressured by her friend and fellow dancer Victoire (Antonia Desplat) to tell the Ballet Master Youri (Pierre Deladonchamps) and Director (Catherine Deneuve), but refrains, unsure what effects it will have on her future. However, when she is discovered, she becomes burdened by uncertainty and paranoia until she comes face to face with her destiny.

Right away, it’s tempting to draw lines to Darren Aronofsky‘s Oscar-winning Black Swan, and while there are connections, Rise of a Star takes us in a different direction and centers far more on the woman than the performer, even as both are meant to be equal. It would be unfair to reveal what lies at the heart of Emma’s situation, but it’s safe to say that this is not a story about mental breakdown but rather confronting long-substantiated barriers. Bort is renowned for his fashion photography and photographing some of ballet’s greatest dancers. Here, in his debut film, he puts that background to exceptional use, using deep shadows and color to tell Emma’s story. There is even time for a brief sequence where Gilbert, a Prima Ballerina at the Paris Opera Ballet and model, performs. Even as the moment is meant to induce concern for her character, it’s hard not to be moved by her talents.

Written by Stéphane Landowski, the film makes its case for empowerment with broad strokes in a climax that works to upset the expected, successfully subverting where we think this going. What Bort does best with this is tell this story through very little dialogue, revealing much to the audience through a move of the hand or a knowing glance from one character to the other. We learn much simply by observing carefully, and the payoff comes from a stirring little statement from Deneuve at the end that sums up exactly what the film is about. What makes it all the more effective is the final image.

Rise of a Star, with its subtle yet duplicitous title, is a complex and layered film with a timely message. Very-well directed and passionately performed, it is currently being considered for an Oscar nomination.

Rise of a Star Review

Movie description: Rise of a Star is a 2017 short film about a new ballerina with a secret liable to undermine what she has spent a whole life on.

Director(s): James Bort

Actor(s): Dorothée Gilbert, Catherine Deneuve, Antonia Desplat

Genre: Short, Drama

  • Our Score
User Rating 4 (1 vote)