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White Crow, The


Stars: Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Adele Exarchopoulos, Louis Hofmann, Zach Avery, Anna Urban, Olivier Rabourdin

Director: Ralph Fiennes

This biopic about the early years of a ballet superstar comes across as Rudolf Nureyev-lite. For such a long film, it delves very little into the psyche of its subject: sexually and socially, Nureyev (Ivenko) remains an enigma.

We see him in bed with his (male) flatmate, and seduced by the voracious wife of his ballet tutor Pushkin (Fiennes). And there's his seemingly platonic friendship with the beautiful Clara (Exarchopoulos), still mourning the death of her previous boyfriend in a car crash.

The backstory, dealing with the dancer's earlier years, is sensibly shot in widescreen and muted colour to distinguish it from the main narrative, set in 1961 when Nureyev comes to Paris with the Kirov ballet. It seems that everyone wants a part of him: but what does Nureyev himself, born on a train to a peasant family, think? We never really find out - apart from an uncharacteristic outburst in a restaurant.

Ivenko looks enough like Nureyev to get by, dances beautifully and can act, but David Hare's screenplay is all over the shop and offers him little to work with. Visiting a church, Rudolf exclaims: 'I'd like to live here,' Replies his companion. 'Rudi, it's not easy to live in a church.' 'I'm serious,' replies Rudolf. 'So am I,' says his friend. Hardly the stuff of sparkling drama.

But the film does come to life in the last reel, delivering real suspense at the airport, as Russian authorities try to compel the dancer to return to Russia (instead of going on to London), a flight from which he is convinced he will never return.

Dance sequences are rather arbitrarily inserted into the narrative, but nicely done all the same.

David Quinlan

USA/UK/France 2019. UK Distributor: Studio Canal (BBC Films). Colour by Cinelab.
128 minutes. Partly widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 18 Mar 2019