A film about the greatest male dancer of his generation should convey at the very least the speed and perfection for which he was known. Unfortunately, The White Crow, a biopic of Rudolph Nureyev, is too often a static production with too little depiction of the dancer in an extended ballet sequence and too much mooning at his yearning or irritable face - the default expressions the director has chosen to emphasize . We see short scenes of the dancer’s talented leaps and twirls and too many scenes of his petulant tantrums which become increasingly annoying with each escalation.
The film leads up to and ends with his request for political asylum in Paris and we see little of his great international successes in America and Europe, nor does the script by David Hare take us up to his tragic death from AIDS. We do see intermittent flashbacks to his childhood in a remote part of Russia and one glorious scene of his early training as a child when he executes a lively and brilliant dance that foreshadows the great talent that will eventually emerge. Those who are ballet afficionados will be disappointed by the one truncated pas de deux and overly brief samples of the actor Oleg Ivenko’s technical skills. Those who crave the more personal details of Nureyev’s life will be frustrated by the superficial probing into his menage a trois with the Pushkins and his insufficiently exlained relationship with the wealthy Parisian Claire Saint. As to his homosexual partners, they serve more as signposts than fleshed out characters. As the credits roll, we see footage of the real Nureyev dancing. In keeping with the drawbacks of the rest of the movie, these are too small and too few to be as thrilling as the subject really was and merely leave us hungry for another movie that will do him ample artistic justice.
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