James Bort’s French short film, Rise of a Star, offers a radiant portrayal of the ballet industry and powerful statement on the role of women and motherhood within it. 

Ballerina Emma is teetering on the brink of ballet superstardom. The favourite to be named top dog, it’s only fitting that director James Bort directs, and introduces, Dorothée Gilbert in the role. Gilbert is, indeed, Prima Ballerina at Paris Opera Ballet. Here, she stars opposite the radiant Catherine Deneuve as the woman holding the reins, Mlle Jean.

Despite her soon to be stardom, Emma is holding onto something that she can’t share lest it ruin her chances of success. Her pregnancy could no doubt jeopardise her chance of being named at the Bolshoi, the infamous ballet theatre and company based in Moscow. Eventually, her friend Victoire (Antonia Desplat) tweezers the information from her, and demands she tell Youri, the uptight ballet master (Pierre Deladonchamps).

Written by Stéphane Landowski and produced by Boris Mendza, Bort successfully captures the tense world of backstage drama that goes with the upper crust theatrical pursuits. The tension between Emma and Victoire, no doubt as much rivals as they are friends, is palpable, and the hierarchical relationship between the dancers and their masters steeped in suspicion and jealousy. Deneuve’s moment in front of the mirror, no doubt casting her mind back to a time when she could have worn the dress she drapes over herself, is lucid and bittersweet.
Bort delivers an elegant eighteen minute piece, with shots evoking memories of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Shortlisted for this year’s Oscars, Rise of a Star is a stunning short that illuminates the wonder and beauty of the female body, and makes a bold statement about the primary biological purpose for which it is built, and which could destroy the career Emma has spent her life building.
★★★★☆
For more short film reviews see The Outing and The Silent Child, and for French films see Ava