Thursday, April 25, 2019

Movie with Abe: The White Crow

The White Crow
Directed by Ralph Fiennes
Released April 26, 2019

The arts have a fascinating power that can often transcend political conflicts and earn those involved in creating and performing them special permissions that would be impossible for someone traveling without the intent of standing before an audience. Athletes from around the globe competed in the Munich Olympics in 1936 on the eve of World War II, and less overt tensions than outright war have led to more complicated situations in which those from oppressive regimes travel throughout more liberal countries under close supervision. Seeing the freedoms that can come from living in a different place are undeniably appealing, and allowing such close contact with another world seems decidedly risky for those who seek to keep their populace under a watchful and controlling eye.

Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) begins his career as a ballet dancer in the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, extremely committed to being the best even when his teachers tell him that he is overconfident and has gotten started too late. His insolent attitude does him no favors, yet his skill and style on the stage earn him a spot on a tour to Paris and London, thanks in no small part to his mentor Alexander Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes). Meeting a French dancer, Pierre (Raphaël Personnaz), and a lonely heiress, Clara (Adèle Exarchopoulos), opens Nureyev’s eyes to what lies beyond his repressive home as he is monitored constantly by Strizhevsky (Aleksey Morozov), who documents and reports his fraternizing to Moscow.

This film tells Nureyev’s story in a non-linear manner, incorporating moments from his harrowing childhood and milestones from throughout his schooling and career that lead him to an incredibly decisive time in Paris that changes the course of his life. The passion that he feels for his art comes across very potently, and the performance scenes are involving and compelling. Nureyev makes little effort to be nice or appreciative to those around him, frequently lashing out at everyone who does anything for him, including those who give him repeated chances despite his prickly and selfish nature, and that is part of what makes him such a magnetic protagonist.

It’s incredible to learn that this is the first time that Ukrainian dancer Ivenko has acted, and his performance is entirely focused and determined, ensuring that Nureyev is as appealing as a character as he is to watch while he is on stage dancing. Personnaz and Morozov contribute memorably, and though this is hardly a fitting international follow-up for Exarchopoulos after her major breakthrough in “Blue is the Warmest Color,” both she and the role get better as the film goes on. Fiennes casts himself in a perfect part as he directs his third film, one which remains interesting throughout and culminates in a powerful, dramatic finish that makes it feel like a thriller just as competent as the drama it’s been up until that point.


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