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Here's the trailer. They say it will be released in the US eventually, but no dates yet. Soon, I hope!

 

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I am also curious to see this.  It won't be easy for any performer to approach the charisma of the youthful Rudi, although Michiel Huisman made a respectable try in the made-for-TV Fonteyn biopic.

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I saw The White Crow today and I was immensely impressed with Ralph Fiennes work as director and his portrayal of Alexander Pushkin.  (He plays the role entirely in Russian.)  It's a visually beautiful film,  especially the scenes of Nureyev's hard scrabble childhood.  Oleg Ivenko  is very affecting as Nureyev.  He doesn't  resemble him much,  but as the film played on,  to me he became more and more credible in the role.  I saw Nureyev dance many times,  back in the days when the Royal Ballet toured North America almost every year.  Of course Ivenko doesn't have  Nureyev's spectacular presence - if he did he'd be world-famous.  But he has excellent technique,  with even better legs and feet than Nureyev had.   By casting an actual dancer Fiennes' film has an authenticity that Black Swan and Red Sparrow lacked.  Ivenko was obviously a real ballet dancer even in scenes where he wasn't dancing at all.   Johan Kobborg was Fiennes ballet consultant,  advising him to emulate Fred Astaire's wide angle framing of dance sequences instead of cutting to closeups.

For me,  the best aspect of the film is its intelligent,  realistic depiction of the dancer's  work process.  I like to read reviews on Rotten Tomatoes after I've seen the movie,  and I wondered if any publication would feature a review from an actual dancer.  (Many of the reviewers  on RT admit that they had no previous knowledge or interest in ballet.)  Lo and behold one did - AARP Movies for Grownups had a rave review from Nichol Hlinka,  the marvelously individual NYCB principal.

I think most serious ballet fans and students will want to see this film,  but it's not for the kiddies.  There is a brief topless and bottomless scene of cabaret dancers,  full-frontal male nudity and frank depictions of sexual affairs.  But it's not lurid.  One aspect marks White Crow as a period piece - everybody around the dancers smokes like a chimney,  including some of the dancers themselves.

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Washington, DC is one of the few US cities fortunate enough to be showing Ralph Fiennes' new movie, The White Crow, during its initial limited release. I attended the DC opening last Friday at the historic Avalon Theatre in NW. As a major admirer of Rudolf Nureyev, I simply could not wait for any small-screen or online version to become available. Were my expectations satisfied? Uh...mostly yes.

Certainly it is great to have the early dramatic story of the Russian balletic comet committed to dramatic film. The two previous films about the early years of Nureyev that I've seen  are the 2016 BBC documentary (with partially-dramatized scenes, featuring Artem Ovcharenko of the Bolshoi as Nureyev) and an earlier "pure documentary" that ran on PBS around 2014 which, to me, was most notable for introducing to the world the pirated films of Nureyev's German friend, Teja Kremke.

My main complaint about the current dramatic film is that it doesn't touch on or develop all of the elements that were so fascinating in the two documentaries. Some characters from the documentary appear; others are not mentioned. For example, Alla Osipenko, Nureyev's main partner on the 1961 Paris tour, is seen but, unless I missed it, her name is not uttered in the Fiennes movie. (When the credits rolled at the end, we learn that Anastasia Meskova of the Bolshoi played Osipenko. So that must have been the ballerina dancing the Black Swan pdd, I suppose.) Also, the new movie does not give us the full story about the incident of Nureyev and his Paris room-mate and fellow star, Yuri Soloviev, in the way that the 2016 BBC docu did. Furthermore, Ms. Mencia, the Cuban dancer who was a girlfriend of Nureyev in Leningrad, features prominently in the PBS documentary but isn't mentioned in the BBC doc or the Fiennes movie. Teja Kremke (Nureyev's gay friend) is depicted in the current movie and was mentioned in the PBS docu...but not in the BBC docu, that I recall. Was it the POB ballerina Claire Motte (in the Fiennes movie) who accompanied her friend Pierre Lacotte on the automobile tours throughout Paris, showing Nureyev the City of Lights...or was it Ghislaine Thesmar, as in the 2016 BBC doc? So we are left with three different films giving three different versions - each introducing different sets of characters - of the pre-defection Nureyev saga.

A big plus:  The characters of Alexander Pushkin - the great Vaganova Academy teacher of Nureyev and so many great male dancers - and Pushkin's wife, Xenia, are developed only in the current feature film, with Ralph Fiennes performing admirably as Pushkin.

A big negative: None of the three films mentions Nureyev's fellow-graduate of 1958, Alla Sizova. According to books, she featured prominently in Nureyev's life in the late 50s even sharing an apartment with Nureyev at one point. Or did she?

In addition to director-actor Fiennes' great work, the current film includes a fine dramatic performance by Ukraine's Oleg Ivenko (whose dancing career has been in Kazan, I think...if so, most appropriate, as this is in Tatarstan). The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, worth seeing it on the big screen (locations include the real St Petersburg-Leningrad and Paris). As someone else mentioned earlier, the realistic depictions of balletic life behind the curtain is admirable.

In sum, The White Crow is a fine addition to films about Nureyev. It's definitely worth my second look. Next time I watch, I'll try to rid my brain of pesky details about those years in Nureyev's life.

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Thank you, On Pointe and Roberta, for these detailed comments.

Quote

One aspect marks White Crow as a period piece - everybody around the dancers smokes like a chimney,  including some of the dancers themselves.

Russian dancers in particular were big smokers back in the day and I understand the habit isn’t entirely gone (if you’re smoking, you’re not eating). At least they are loyal enough to the period to show them smoking. Do the actors smoke convincingly? One thing I have noticed is that many actors these days can’t or won’t puff in a believable manner.

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9 hours ago, dirac said:

Thank you, On Pointe and Roberta, for these detailed comments.

Russian dancers in particular were big smokers back in the day and I understand the habit isn’t entirely gone (if you’re smoking, you’re not eating). At least they are loyal enough to the period to show them smoking. Do the actors smoke convincingly? One thing I have noticed is that many actors these days can’t or won’t puff in a believable manner.

The smoking in White Crow looked authentic to me.  An actor friend of mine who didn't  smoke was cast in a play where his character had to take a couple of puffs on a cigarette.  At the end of the short run,  he found himself addicted to smoking and it took many months of effort to kick the habit.  You can't  blame actors for not wanting to risk their lives because of some director's vision.

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Roberta, you wrote an excellent review of The White Crow.  I enjoyed the film very much and it was beautifully done.  Ivenko was good; his dancing was good but not great and nobody could expect him to  have Rudi's charisma. I thought Fiennes was terrific.  He really evoked the films of Pushkin  teaching Baryshnikov's class. I wish there had been more dancing though.  The film was quite faithful to the bio of Rudi by Julie Kavanagh.  All the people you mention figured prominently in her book.  It would have been fascinating to see more of Sizova and especially Soloviev.  The night after I saw White Crow, I saw the current documentary film "Nureyev" .  Fascinating to see the contrast between them. I also wished there were  more actual footage of Nureyev dancing in the doc film. Instead there were scenes of  dancers performing contemporary choreography against a backdrop of a Russian birch forest, with the real Rudi pirouetting interminably off to one side.  The documentary covers his entire life with extensive portions of interviews with Dick Cavett and others.  Both films are worth seeing.

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13 hours ago, On Pointe said:

The smoking in White Crow looked authentic to me.  An actor friend of mine who didn't  smoke was cast in a play where his character had to take a couple of puffs on a cigarette.  At the end of the short run,  he found himself addicted to smoking and it took many months of effort to kick the habit.  You can't  blame actors for not wanting to risk their lives because of some director's vision.

Nice to hear it looked right. Sorry about your friend, but IMO if you're going to do it, do it properly or not at all. (I've never been able to inhale, myself.)

Thanks for your review, Marta.

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16 hours ago, Marta said:

Roberta, you wrote an excellent review of The White Crow.  I enjoyed the film very much and it was beautifully done.  Ivenko was good; his dancing was good but not great and nobody could expect him to  have Rudi's charisma. I thought Fiennes was terrific.  He really evoked the films of Pushkin  teaching Baryshnikov's class. I wish there had been more dancing though.  The film was quite faithful to the bio of Rudi by Julie Kavanagh.  All the people you mention figured prominently in her book.  It would have been fascinating to see more of Sizova and especially Soloviev.  The night after I saw White Crow, I saw the current documentary film "Nureyev" .  Fascinating to see the contrast between them. I also wished there were  more actual footage of Nureyev dancing in the doc film. Instead there were scenes of  dancers performing contemporary choreography against a backdrop of a Russian birch forest, with the real Rudi pirouetting interminably off to one side.  The documentary covers his entire life with extensive portions of interviews with Dick Cavett and others.  Both films are worth seeing.

Martha, thank you for mentioning the newest documentary "Nureyev." I had never heard of it until now. If I may ask - who is the director, the country of production, method of circulation, etc.?

 

My favorite docu about Nureyev's total life - with heavy emphasis on post-defection - remains the one from 1990/91 by Patricia Foy.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, dirac said:

Nice to hear it looked right. Sorry about your friend, but IMO if you're going to do it, do it properly or not at all. (I've never been able to inhale, myself.)

Thanks for your review, Marta.

The risks that an actor can be expected to take is a hot button issue in the industry.  Oleg Ivenko is a very young dancer with his life and career ahead of him.  An actor in his position with a bigger name or more moxie could have demanded that the other actors use fake cigarettes with the smoke CGIed  in afterward.  Since the overwhelming majority of people (in the US at least) doesn't smoke,  seems to me that they could have toned down or eliminated the smoking without harming the film.  I know I would find it very onerous to spend hours on a film set surrounded by people smoking.

Edited by On Pointe
Correction

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Roberta said:  Martha, thank you for mentioning the newest documentary "Nureyev." I had never heard of it until now. If I may ask - who is the director, the country of production, method of circulation, etc.?

Jacqui and David Morris made this film, 2018.  There's a trailer on youtube.  They're siblings, and British I think.  I saw this film a few weeks ago at a one night only screening in a Landmark Cinema.  Maybe it will return for a longer run, although i doubt it because there were very very few people at the screening.  It would probably draw a larger audience at a museum or university cinema.

 

 

Edited by Marta
Edited to add more information.

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Russian dancers in the main are still heavy smokers to the extent of standing outside stage doors puffing away in full costume when they're not needed on stage

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5 hours ago, Mashinka said:

Russian dancers in the main are still heavy smokers to the extent of standing outside stage doors puffing away in full costume when they're not needed on stage

Absolutely true. I've seen it outside the ROH stage door often enough. 

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I know I would find it very onerous to spend hours on a film set surrounded by people smoking.

Good thing you weren't around for Golden Age Hollywood. :) I used to work in offices when smoking was still allowed in such places and I can't say I miss it.

Quote

My favorite docu about Nureyev's total life - with heavy emphasis on post-defection - remains the one from 1990/91 by Patricia Foy.

Excellent film.

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If you are (or will be) in New York City next month, "Nureyev" the documentary has a two-week run coming up at Film Forum, from Friday, June 7 to Thursday, June 20.  If there's enough audience demand, there's always a chance that Film Forum may extend the run.

https://filmforum.org/film/nureyev

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Doesn't sound good, does it?  But I'd certainly like to see that archival footage of Nureyev performing with Taylor and Graham at least once, however poor the quality. This new documentary may well be superfluous, but I think it's great that there is such continuing interest in Nureyev and I hope movies like this help keep his name alive with the general public - and Fonteyn's, too, since she was so closely associated with him. Nureyev 's life and career offer juicy material for any filmmaker, even if one would wish for more emphasis on his art and less on his private life.

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5 hours ago, Roberta said:

A review of the 2019 Nureyev documentary:

https://trustmovies.blogspot.com/2019/06/dont-bother-with-nureyev-too-often.html

Ouch! Not so promising. Which begs the question, "Why?"  How many documentaries on Nureyev have we had, since the great one by Patricia Foy? Why was yet another one needed, if it has so little new information or footage to add?

Thanks for the link.  The review is right on!  It focuses on the chief irritant, in my opinion, of the Nureyev doc:  The  dances by Maliphant that  are inherently uninteresting, don't add anything and are an intrusion.  I saw the documentary the night after seeing The White Crow, and what a disappointment.  I wouldn't say it's superfluous though. It's still worth seeing for the very brief footage of Taylor and Graham, the scenes with Fonteyn and Bruhn, and parts of the interview with Cavett. Even though I had seen the original interview, it was great to revisit it.  

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3 hours ago, Roberta said:

Thanks, Marta. No need to see the documentary to see a great 8+-minute clip of Nureyev dancing Taylor's Aureole with the RDB:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q-ztXxdG_o

 

Also, isn't it Nureyev in this complete performance of Appalachian Spring? first of 4 parts...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmgaKGSxQVw

 

Thanks for the links.  The Aureole is fun to watch, even if it seems too jolly  for his temperament.  That's not Rudi in Appalachian though.  it's a 1959 film of Graham, Stuart Hodes and Bertram Ross.  I'm not particularly a partisan of Rudi but for anyone who is, I think the doc. is worth seeing.

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