Le Bal (1983): Ettore Scola’s Oscar-Nominated Chronicle of Dance

Representing Italy in the best foreign language Oscar category, Ettore Scola’s original and entertaining film, Le Bal, offers a chronicle of 50 years of French history and culture, seen from the POV of a ballroom to which various people come and go.

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

Le Bal

Film poster

Wordless, with practically no dialogue or narration, the spectacle movie captures the essence of each era through music, dance, fashion, and mores.

There are characters, none named, but most of the performers remain anonymous.

They include:

Étienne Guichard as Le jeune étudiant de province / Le jeune professeur (The young provincial student, the young teacher)

Régis Bouquet as Le patron de la salle / Le paysan (The owner of the hall, the peasant)

Francesco De Rosa as Toni, le jeune serveur (Toni, the young waiter)

Arnault LeCarpentier as Le jeune typographe / L’étudiant (The young typist, the student)

Liliane Delval (Liliane Léotard) as La fille aux cheveux longs / L’alcoolique (The girl with long hair, the alcoholic)

Martine Chauvin as La jeune fleuriste / L’étudiante (The young florist, the student)

Danielle Rochard as La livreuse d’une modiste (The milliner’s deliverywoman)

Nani Noël as La fille de joie / La jeune juive / La refugiée / La jeune qui peint ses basses (The prostitute, the young Jewosh, the refugee, the young woman who paints her bass)

Aziz Arbia as Le jeune ouvrier (The young labourer)

Marc Berman as L’aristo / Le planqué / Le collaborationiste (The aristocrat, the coward, the collaborationist)

Geneviève Rey-Penchenat as L’aristo (The aristocrat)

Michel van Speybroeck as L’homme qui vient de loin (The man from far away)

Rossana Di Lorenzo as La dame-pipi (The toilet attendant)

Michel Toty as L’ouvrier spécialisé (The specialist worker)

Raymonde Heudeline as L’ouvrière (The worker)

Jean-Claude Penchenat as La ‘croix de feu’ (The Croix-de-Feu member, a French proto-fascist group)

Jean-Francois Perrier as le sacristain amoureux / l’officier allemand (amorous sacristan, the German officer)

Monica Scattini as La jeune fille myope (The young short-sighted girl)

Le Bal has been choreographed as much as directed, and the physical production is outstanding.

In the 1936 sequence, for example, Scola and cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich drain virtually all the color from the images to create the look of faded photographs.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Foreign Language Film

Oscar Context


The Oscar winner that year was Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander.”



Algeria (Cineproduction S.A.-Films A2, Paris), Massfilm (Rome), O.N.C.I.C. (Alger)

Release Date: December 21, 1983

Running Time: 110 Minutes