Review / ‘The Dancer’ (M) *** and a half

WITH only three films since 1984, Stephanie Di Giusto isn’t a prolific filmmaker.

A screenplay by Thomas Bidegain adapting a novel by Giovanni Lista about the middle years of American Marie-Louise (stage name Loie) Fuller doesn’t attempt to cover all of her achievements as actress, theatrical technologist, author and friend to notable French artistic and political figures during la belle époque.

Instead, Di Giusto shows how Loie changed the face of dance as a theatrical spectacle. Playing Loie, Soko delivers a woman confronting personal and career obstacles that might have deterred someone less resolute. How she dealt with them forms a prelude to dance passages occupying about a fifth of the film. And those alone are worth much.

Loie might rightly claim a place in the history of dance that changed much and is still leading to creative development. The film spends much time overcoming the obstacles confronting her. It touches on her career at the Folies Bergere from where she moved to the Paris Opera. It briefly suggests that Isadora Duncan (Lily-Rose Depp) might have been her lover. It implies that her professional and domestic factotum Gabrielle Bloch (Mélanie Thierry) would have liked to be her lover. To balance the sexual equation, it creates a fictional male lover the Comte D’Orsay (Gaspard Ulliel).

But while sex provides the film with a slow-flowing undercurrent, it’s the magical moments of Loie dominating centre stage, swirling voluminous fabric around her body in tightly-choreographed, ever-changing patterns of movement and light, that make it totally worthwhile.

At Palace Electric

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