The Perfect Fit


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Perfect Fit
"It takes a special kind of documentarian to look behind the right curtain."

Ballet has oft been the subject of filmmaking, hardly surprising given the dichotomy between the grace on stage and the hours of dedication and strife required to make it happen. Tali Yankelevich's brilliant documentary sheds light on another corner of those efforts - the surprisingly brutal processes involved in crafting ballet shoes.

The cobblers are credited at the end with their makers' marks, one of the many telling touches of the quality of this film. We're introducted to them at their lasts, their hands scarred with knife marks and blisters, the heavy thump of hammers and slide of needles as wood and cloth are smacked into instantly recognisable forms. They read their fan letters, sent to them from prima ballerinas, talk about what they do, where their shoes go.

As they do so, ballerinas talk. "The blood was coming through the shoes"; "You will be in pain every day." We move in beautifully intercut shots from hands to feet, the workshop to the studio. Toes gnarled and callused, hands battered and wounded; a moment of stunning silence as we listen to the cracks and clicks of a stretching foot - audible damage, aquired in search of art. There is a delightfuly synchrony, the brutality of the preparation and the mutuality of the injury - "a lot messier than the ballet world" and "you look like you've got maker's hands".

There's the old joke about the swan - serene above, paddling furiously beneath. This is the 'red in tooth and claw' that makes that possible. Yankelevich had seen an article about the shoemakers on the internet, and had gone to the workshop to shoot a trailer - the cobblers had started talking about the work spontaneously, and that easiness is evident. While ballet can be a difficult world to get access to, this is an enlightening look at the processes and thoughts around what she described in interview as "an instrument of torture" which dancers still need to be able to dance.

It takes a special kind of documentarian to look behind the right curtain - for all that it's a foundation of ballet, the shoe is somewhat of a mystery. In shedding light on it, The Perfect Fit is on point.

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2012
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A look at the craft of making ballet shoes and the damage done in the pursuit of art.
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Director: Tali Yankelevich

Year: 2011

Runtime: 10 minutes

Country: UK

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