The Acrobat


Jean-Daniel Pollet, France, 1975


In this extract we’ll see an object be transformed by the power of the imagination, just like in The Goldrush. Here the object is a mop, a mundane, everyday work tool that has a great rigidity to it. Using his imagination Leo transforms it in to a supple, seductive dance partner.  In this sequence the playing space is one of the least romantic locations in the sauna, the sad, narrow corridor that Leo transforms in to a tango dancehall by the power of his imagination. 

Imagination allows all sorts of transformations to take place, morphing reality by means of a waking dream state, where Leo can realise his desires of being a great dancer, and use his acrobatic abilities to steal the heart of the woman he loves, a prostitute called Fumée, who is his dance partner at tango competitions. 

There’s also a cinematic game being played in this sequence, where the camera has to film Leo in a very skilful way, during a long take in the tight corridor, making way for his movements, yet keeping him in shot. The music also plays a role in this, in that it’s obviously not the real music of the space. Playing with music like this, as it comes from Leo’s imagination, allows the audience to detach from the reality of the scene and follow Leo in his imagination.   

The scene concludes with a brutal return to reality. One of the clients waits impatiently for Leo to give them their usual hair washing treatment.  His dream of dancing glory comes to a sudden end and he returns, with a bang, to being a humble employee cleaning the corridor.