ទេពហត្ថា | The Perfect Motion Movie (Official Trailer)
Inspired by Princess Buppha Devi's last choreography,'Memories in Motion', a filmic, lyrical and well-document tribute to the Royal Ballet of Cambodia.
Published: April 1st, 2023
Language : Khmer
This featiure-length documentary (the first film in this format ever released in nation-wide movie theaters in Cambodia) starts with the opening of 'Metamorphosis', the last major-sized choreography of the late Princess Norodom Buppha Devi (1943-2019) This inspired dance program was precisely conceived to reflect the aesthetical history of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, from 1906 to our days, through the story of the nymph-apsara Neang Wattana Devi.
Xavier de Lauzanne, who haddirected 'Les Pépites' (about the remarkable achievments of Pour un sourire d'enfant (PSE) NGO in Cambodia), chose to focus on the modern history of Khmer classical dance, starting from the visit of King Sisowath to France in 1906, the first time ever when the Royal Ballet dancers performed outside of Phnom Penh Royal Palace. Reflecting on the powerful impact the gestures and postures of the Khmer dancers had on Auguste Rodin's aesthetic philosophy, the director threads through history, showing how Queen Kossamak decided to modernize the royal dance and had her granddaughter Princess Buppha Devi beautifully impersonate her ideal of 'apsara dance'.
Later on, the film takes us through the violent destruction of the Cambodian art scene, and the 'rebirth of a nation' thanks to the revival of Khmer classical dance. These poignant pages in the history of the Royal Ballet have been explored in recent publications, in particular Colin Grafton's Dancers (2021, Phnom Penh), and here they are evokedby the survivors themselves, the ones who kept alive the ancestral art form in exile or in the refugee camps.
With infinite grace and compassion, the film ends up with the youngest dancers of the ensemble musing about their art, their lives in modern Cambodia, and the bright future of artistic endeavors in their country. A message of hope that transports and elevates us since it rings so true, so convincing.
Note: The Khmer title, ទេពហត្ថា, refers to "Tep Attha", literally the Angel-Fairy of Gesture, since Khmer classical (and even folk) dance has always kept a mystical, religious essence. As for the original title in French, 'La beauté du geste", this is a highly idiomatic-idiosyncratic phrase meaning "for the beauty of it", "for art's sake", "for the sake of doing it (right)".
Rodin drawing a Khmer dancer in 1906; Cambodian dancers posing for visual artists in Paris, 2018 (photos The Perfect Motion)
But while the artistic resonance of the classical robam (dance) is explored with accuracy and lyricism, the intimate connection between royalty, religion and dance is also an important angle of this documentary-movie. That aspect was one of the main themes in Julio Jeldres' inspired biography of Princess Buppha Devi (The First Royal Apsara, 2022, Phnom Penh). And quite naturally, King Norodom Sihamoni, himself a classical dancer and dance historian, gave his royal approval to The Perfect Motion.
At the same time, while traveling to Angkor Thom in order to preside over the symbolic opening of the SEA Games 2023 (hosted by Cambodia), HM King Sihamoni found some time in this tight schedule to drive to Banteay Srei and honor with his visit the countryside-based dance school Sacred Dancers of Angkor, as shown in this exclusive video footage by NKTV (courtesy of Lok Srei Ravynn Karet Coxen, the founder of the school greeting the Cambodian sovereign in these images).
Tradition and modernity (photo Sok Nalys)
Moments of The Perfect Motion Cambodian Premiere, CIFF Gala under the auspices of the auspices of HM King Norodon Sihamoni, 26 March 2023:
For the first time ever, a documentary film attracted 10,000 viewers in the month following it's release:
- Duration: 86 minutes;
- Khmer dubbed, English and French subtitiles;
- Directed by Xavier de Lauzanne | Script by Pierre Kogan and Xavier de Lauzanne | Interviews with HRH Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, HRH Prince Sisowath Tesso, ballet mistresses Voan Savay, Sam Ouen Tes, Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, Men Kossony, ballet master Chhieng Proeung, costume designer Lim Sylvain, dancers Sok Nalys and Serei Van Kosaun, historians Nut Suppya and Olivier de Bernon;
- An alOest Production (François-Hugues de Vaumas), with the support of The Peak , AEPK , Vattanac Beer , Rosewood Phnom Penh , European Union in Cambodia, BRED Bank Cambodia , All Dreams Cambodia , eau Kulen , Lotus On Water ｜ 云龙子旺财馆 | Distributed by JaiKon Cambodia and Legend Cinemas;
- Real-time information about the movie screening in Cambodia;
- Read the 2023 Phnom Penh Post review of the premiere event;
- In February 2024, the movie was viewed by more than 1,000 during avant premiere screenings at Paris Guimet Museum, UNESCO/Paris, Strasbourg, Dijon, Rennes, Geneva and Nantes, before the European official release on 13 March 2024;
- In 2010, Princess Buppha Devi had given a lengthy interview to journalist Christophe Gargiulo. This rare TV program was released for the first time on 1st April 2023 at IFC (Institut Francais du Cambodge, Phnom Penh).