I am not a fan of ballet.

I am, however, a fan of director Carroll Ballard, and thought, “Gee—if anyone could make me appreciate ballet, I bet it would be Ballard!”  So when I saw that his 1986 film of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s critically-lauded production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker was being re-released on DVD, I thought, “Well, let’s give this a whirl.”

So I whirled it.  And I remain unsold.

What is the story of Nutcracker?  Well, gosh.  That’s kind of a hard question to answer for a ballet, unless you’ve “read the book.”  Here, apparently, young Clara has some weird hangup about her eccentric inventor godfather, and the night before Christmas she lapses into a fevered dream.  Her godfather, Herr Drosselmeier, crafts a magical toy-soldier nutcracker for her as a gift, and in the dream sequence it morphs into a handsome prince… with whom, it seems, Drosselmeier vies for Clara’s romantic intentions.

Vanessa Sharp as Clara in Nutcracker

Or maybe I’m reading that all wrong.  I don’t know.  But the voiceover narration provided by Julie Christie (could you imagine a voiceover during a live ballet?) is a sure sign that Ballard isn’t exactly comfortable that his presentation of the ballet is telling a coherent story, either.

And, to be honest, bringing the camera in close without bringing a microphone along with it is, on a technological level, profoundly distracting.

If you love the ballet, I think, you’ll also love the film.  But if, like me, you’re looking for a winning introduction to the ballet (or to ballet in general)… well, just go to your local opera house and skip the film.

Also worth noting that this is one of MGM’s feature-only DVDs, so don’t expect your purchase to bring any extras to the game.

Nutcracker is rated G… but this, frankly, is a pretty creepy G.

Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional copy of Nutcracker.