Film Review: Dancing away from a repressive regime in ‘The White Crow’

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Wed, 2018-11-07 21:17

TOKYO:The third movie directed by Ralph Fiennes, “The White
Crow,” which clinched the Best Artistic Contribution prize at the
recent Tokyo International Film Festival, follows his earlier two
dramas inspired by English literature. While his debut attempt,
“Coriolanus,” was based on Shakespeare’s work, his next,
“The Invisible Woman,” fell back on Claire Tomalin’s book on
Ellen Ternan, the actress whose secret affair with a much older
Charles Dickens provided fodder for gossip in 19th century Britain.
“The White Crow” takes us far away to the 1960s Soviet Union,
engulfed in dirty Cold War politics.

The movie tells us the dramatic story of the famous ballet
dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who defected to France in 1961. It takes an
unflinching look at the rigid Soviet political system and how it
strangulated personal freedom and artistic expression — factors
that have not entirely disappeared from today’s world. The film
explores Nureyev’s birth on a train in Siberia and his
fascination with ballet that his family could ill-afford. His
steely resolve — which often gets derailed because of his temper
tantrums — helps him master the dance form, although he goes into
it late in life.

Played by the renowned Ukrainian dancer Oleg Ivanko, Nureyev,
aided by one of the finest teachers of the time, Fiennes’
Pushkin, springs to life with each step, with each move in a
narrative that uses flashbacks, though rather clumsily. Nureyev
dances with many leading companies before dying from AIDS in 1993.
One of the most memorable moments in the movie is a dramatic scene
at a Parisian airport in which Nureyev’s Soviet handlers try to
stop him from traveling to London. In those vital minutes, his
friend Clara Saint (Adele Exarchopoulos) attempts to help him.

Sadly, Exarchopoulos, who with her headscarf resembles Jackie
Onassis, appears painfully wooden, something that is not helped by
a script that seems to bounce all over the place.

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Film Review: Dancing away from a repressive regime in ‘The White Crow’