The White Crow Review - Captivating, Breathtaking, Magnificent, A Must See

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The White Crow, from Sony Picture Classics and BBC Films, presents the story of Rudolf Nureyev, weaving his early childhood, dedicated and all-consuming training, his triumphant debut at the Palais Garnier, and his defection to the West.

Directed by Ralph Fiennes, The White Crow stars newcomer Oleg Ivenko as Nureyev, Ralph Fiennes, Chulpan Khamatova, Adele Exarchopoulous, Louis Hofman, Raphael Personnaz, Sergei Polunin, Olivier Rabourdin, Zach Avery, Mar Sodupe, Aleksey Morozov and Nebojsa Dugalic. The film is based on the book "Rudolf Nureyev: The Life"

The film begins with an interrogation of Alexander Pushkin, played by Ralph Fiennes, who is asked if he Rudy, played by Oleg Ivenko, had ever talked about defecting, if he ever mentioned politics to which he answers "No, he knew nothing of politics. It was all about dance. Perhaps," he said, "he had an explosion of character."


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And with that statement, like a passageway, we are taken inside the Vaganova Academy where a young Nureyev, is explaining to the headmaster he would work better under the more famous and legendary Alexander Pushkin. Soon he is training under Pushkin.

The White Crow moves between these moments, explosion of character throughout Nureyev's life, from his birth on a train, a peasant on a train he explains, to his head turning performances and his demands to the former ballet star to leave the room.

Soon Pushkin's wife, Xenia, played by Chulpan Khamatova, is stopping by the studio with soup and explaining the as a dancer he must take care of his instrument. He also begins dining with the Pushkin's at their home.

Nureyev, the man he became was a life of training, study, hard work, discipline in the arts, learning from those around him in social circles and situations. He was the first to explain his family was extremely poor. When dinner consisted of only potatoes, understanding the napkin rests in the lap or which fork to use wasn't a priority.


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During training Nureyev breaks his shin and is on crutches. The Pushkin's, who only have a large studio, make room and help him during his recovery, treating him as a son. He remains living with them even after he begins to dance again. It is during this time that Mrs. Pushkin seduces him and the two become lovers.

It isn't clear if her seduction is used to keep him from thinking of leaving the school or, as he becomes engaged in a same sex relationship simultaneously with Teja Kremke, played by Louis Hofmann, a fellow dancer who is also tutoring him in English, to keep him away from same sex relationships and the harm it would bring on him, should the government find out.

Suddenly it is 1961, and the height of the Cold War, the Kirov Ballet, Russia's best dancers are touring the west touted as culturally superior, the dancers will perform five weeks in Paris and then onto London.

Within minutes of landing they are exposed to a world unlike anything they had seen or experienced. Rudolf Nureyev, who besides being driven to become the best dancer in the world, was also a bit of a showman. He was better than what he had been allowed to show until this trip, and he knew it.


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When he met the Pierre LaCotte, lead dancer from the Paris Ballet, and his friend, who asked if he danced, and he replied, "if I had danced you would remember me." The next night he made good on his statement and brought the house down with grace, elegance, his ability to achieve height on his jumps and almost pause, elongated, in mid-air. His dance was breathtaking.

During his five weeks in Paris he also met Clara Saint, played by Adele Exarchopoulos, who enduring her own tragedies began spending a good portion of time with him.

Rudolf Nureyev, who was Russia's best male dancer, defected to the West at the airport in Paris, after being strong armed by KGB agents, who explained he was to return to Moscow immediately, instead of joining the Ballet Troupe in London.

The White Crow is impressive. Director Ralph Fiennes has woven magic into the story using a palette of color to add visual effects from the black and white sequences of his deeply distressed childhood to the matted hues of his years training and finally the burst of colors representing the freedoms of the West.


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The dance sequences are thrilling. Oleg Ivenko, appears to capture the height in his jumps that electrified audiences around the world and this role, his debut performance, is noteworthy for his ability to be Rudolf Nureyev in manner, in speech, to personify the Lord of the Dance.

The supporting cast each capturing the persona, portraying moments still in the memories of the living, with authenticity bringing life to a time when freedom was costly and often thought of as selfish. For the Russians it was also an act of treason. Ralph Fiennes plays the middle-aged, balding, Russian master ballet instructor Alexander Pushkin with restraint, using quietness as his strength.

Opening April 26, The White Crow is beautifully crafted, well written, superbly directed with magnificent, breathtaking performances. See it.

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