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Review: Film about Peter Brook tightrope exercise stumbles

Review: Film about Peter Brook tightrope exercise stumbles
Peter Brook runs one of his workshops in "Peter Brook: The Tightrope." (Daniel Bardou / Brook Productions)

The documentary "Peter Brook: The Tightrope" illuminates the two-time Tony-winning theater director's method of working with actors — but little else.

The acting exercise of the film's title involves thespians toeing diagonally across a Persian rug, as if on a tightrope, swaying their bodies and stretching out their arms as if to gain balance. The difficulty escalates with the introduction of imaginary obstacles such as fires and cascades of water.

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So instructional is the film, directed by Brook's son, Simon, that it feels like one of those P90X or Insanity home fitness programs: Try this at home. You too can perform on stage.

"Peter Brook" evinces the how without ever bothering to address the who, what, where, when and why. Even the press notes offer scant information. Without any context, the film loses the uninitiated from the opening.

An educated guess would be that filming took place at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, where Brook once served as an artistic director. Many of the 11 participating thespians worked with him elsewhere, most notably in his 2008 staging of Samuel Beckett's "Fragments."

Filming lasted two weeks per the press notes, though you'd never guess it. Nobody ever gets changed. The press notes also allude to five hidden cameras, which probably explains why we get close-ups when the situations demand wider shots.

Sometimes the film neglects the actors altogether, only showing Brook reacting to their off-screen performances. Perhaps to director Simon, father's approval is the only thing that matters.

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"Peter Brook: The Tightrope."

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

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