Posts Tagged ‘David Hare’

Oleg Ivenko as Rudolph Nureyev

“THE WHITE CROW” My rating: B-

127 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Early on in  Ralph Fienne’s “The White Crow” a character observes that Rudolph Nureyev’s dancing is rarely technically perfect but that he compensates with personality and passion.

Ironically, personality and passion are what is lacking in this biopic about Nureyev’s early life.

David Hare’s screenplay adopts a jumbled narrative that leaps between the dancer’s impoverished childhood in the Soviet Union during World War II, his training at Leningrad’s Kirov Ballet and a long visit to Paris that  ends with his defection to the West.

All the makings are here for a compelling real-life tale of an iconoclast (a “white crow” in idiomatic Russian) whose emotional makeup and outsized talent were a poor fit with the do-what-you’re-told culture of Soviet-sponsored arts (“Ballet is about obedience”).  And yet despite a few compelling moments, the film occupies a sort of generic middle ground.

Needless to say, the real Nureyev was anything but generic.

In the end the film’s successes and failures come down to leading man Oleg Ivenko, a dancer talented enough to simulate Nureyev’s astounding leaps (though dance scenes in the film are few and far between) but too limited as an actor to fully inhabit his character.

The film is bookended by the 1961 residency of the Kirov at Paris’ Garnier Opera House. Almost immediately Ivenko’s Nureyev is established as a loner who gets up early to visit the Louvre (just so he can have a few precious minutes of alone time with Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa”) and insists on breaking away from the other Kirov members to explore the city’s vibrant night life with the young French dancers who are the Soviets’ hosts.

His willful flaunting of the rules does not go unnoticed; invariably he is tracked on his nightly perambulations by menacing KGB types who sit dourly at nearby tables sipping the house’s cheapest drinks.


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