Two ballet films in a week? Ralph Fiennes’ The White Crow is more an early biopic of Russian dancer Rudolph Nureyev, from his tough childhood in Ufa, to his studies at the Leningrad ballet and his tutelage under Mr Pushkin, and the lovely Mrs Pushkin, in a one-bed apartment.
The film pivots around the key moment of Nureyev’s life, which is the leap of defection to the West he took one afternoon at Le Bourget Airport in Paris in 1961.
It’s a handsome looking film all right. Dancer Oleg Ivenko plays Nureyev and really gets the muscularity and smoulder of a young man realising his own talent and the pull of his own charisma. Fiennes himself plays Pushkin (not the novelist, but a famed dance teacher) with reserve, a very unshowy role in a cardigan.
I liked the technical aspects – the dancing, the camera, the music, the look of 60s Paris – and I liked the flashback structure. Strangely, the dialogue in David Hare’s script doesn’t take as many leaps as the visuals, leading to long conversations in English between, say, Ivenko and French actress Adele Exarchopoulos, that are heavy (and heavily-accented) going. It needs more humour, danger and sex ( don’t we all) and, honestly, it’s 30 minutes too long.