Movie review / ‘The White Crow’ (M)

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“The White Crow”… The whole cast is great. The locations are dazzling.

“The White Crow” (M) *****

IN Russian, the term “white crow” denotes somebody who doesn’t conform to the behavioural norms of the many (albino corvid birds sometimes occur in nature but, apparently, stories of them being killed by more conformist black crows are myths).

For a film telling the story of Rudolf Nureyev’s life before June 16, 1961, when he defected to the West at Le Bourget Airport, “white crow” provides a completely appropriate title. 

The screenplay for director Ralph Fiennes’s film was written by noted playwright David Hare whose most recent feature screenplay was the powerful “Denial” about David Irving’s libel action against American writer Deborah Lipstadt for “Denying the Holocaust”. Seeing Hare’s name in the credits for any film rings the “sit up and take notice” bell, which it does very much so here.

You might be forgiven for conjecturing that no actor has yet been born who could play Nureyev convincingly. Oleg Ivenko does. 

In his first acting role (in languages that he didn’t speak before being cast as the best-known male ballet dancer in history) Ukraine-born Ivenko dances up a fine storm as well as dealing with the restrictive controls that the KGB was imposing on the Kirov ballet company on tour in Paris.

A film about ballet, to be worth its salt, depends heavily on the music. It’s great. Fiennes was blessed by having Stephen McLaughlin as the film’s music director.

Films about ballet tend toward romantic themes when the dancing pauses. This one unfolds in front of a totalitarian system that brooked no departure from its social rules. You might search the annals of ballet movies far and wide without success to find one with the absolute tension, not alleviated by knowing the outcome, of the morning of the defection. 

The whole cast is great. The locations are dazzling. Purists might quibble over niggly little details. But the screenplay, based on the first six chapters of Julie Kavanagh’s “Rudolf Nureyev: The Life”, holds the line and delivers some great cinematic moments.

At Dendy, Palace Electric and Capitol 6


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“The White Crow” (M) *****
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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