In Brief: A biopic about the defection of Soviet Union ballet star Rudolph Nureyev in 1961. If you’re a fan of the dance, this one isn’t bad. The rest of us? Nyet.
Ralph Fiennes makes his third trip behind the camera with The White Crow. He dances around the story of how ballet legend Rudolph Nureyev defected to the West. The key word here is dances.
Ballet star Oleg Ivenko — the Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Kazan, Ukraine — stars. Fiennes plays Alexander Pushkin who tutored and trained Nureyev and the other Russian ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov.
The film roams from the Soviet Union in the 1940s through 1961 when Nureyev defected while in Paris, France. Fiennes movie paints Nureyev as ignoring his communist masters to bathe in French culture. He doesn’t experience French life as much as he breathes it in.
Two performances stand out. The first is Fiennes. He plays Pushkin as a nice man who loves his wife and his life but also turns a blind eye to her wandering eye. He puts on a half-smile and carries on while she carries on so to speak.
The second is that of Ivenko. In spite of zero acting experience, Fiennes gets a very good performance out of the dancer. However, with very little dialogue and playing his character as more or less the strong silent type, Ivenko doesn’t have to do much to impress other than dance.
And dance he does.
Fiennes movie soars during the dance sequences. He and his choreographers do a pretty good job but the flashbacks falter and even the dramatic you-already-know-what-happens defection when Nureyev thumbs his nose at the KGB and runs, has zero tension.
But maybe that’s because we already know what happened and that Nureyev escaped. Or not.
I remember the defection and how it caused an international stink. But I’m not a fan of ballet nor of Nureyev, and didn’t really need or want to know that much about Nureyev’s life, his love life or that he’s bisexual or why he defected.
This film runs a bit over two-hours. A trim of about 20-minutes and this is a really good movie. Padded? Not so much. Or to get into the swing of things and use the proper adjective, make that a nyet.
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Stars: Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Chulpan Khamatova, Adele Exarchoopoulos, Olivier Rabourdin, Louis Hofmann, Sergei Polunin
A defective defection biopic isn’t bad if this is your thing. It’s not mine but I wasn’t totally bored. Give this one a 3 1/2 on the Friday Flicks 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.