The White Crow

Do you remember the international kerfuffle when Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West from the Soviet Union during the Cold War? You're probably too young, but I certainly remember. During this R-rated film, it occurred to me that the media didn't come close to describing the drama of what actually happened, or the events that led up to it. Rest assured, the Russians tried everything possible to prevent it, but we know that Nureyev lived out his life in the West. In fact our family drove from Eugene, Oregon to Portland to see him when he toured with the Royal Canadian Ballet.

Nureyev was born on the Trans-Siberian Express somewhere near Irkutsk, Siberia. His mother was a dedicated, hard-working woman who only saw her husband (a Red Army Political Commissar) occasionally; somehow she managed to obtain a ticket to a theater and thus his first love was born. Teachers spotted his potential, so he was encouraged and trained from an early age. We see all of this in flashbacks interspersed with other aspects of his story.

In keeping with his nickname "The White Crow," Rudolf never fits in. His imperious manner, his towering talent, his take-no-prisoners attitude, and his overwhelming confidence, all conspire to keep him somewhat isolated from his Kirov cast mates and allow him to focus on his friendship with Chilean heiress Clara Saint.

Working from the book by Julie Kavanaugh, screenwriter David Hare ("The Hours") has provided director Ralph Fiennes ("Coriolanus") with a script which features the following:
  • Oleg Ivenko, in his first and only movie outing, is Nureyev. Like Nureyev, his focus is on ballet, although Rudy also has a compelling interest in classical art. In Paris, he is fascinated by a statue dedicated to Libertè, Egalitè and Fraternitè. 
  • Ralph Fiennes ("Hail, Caesar!") is Pushkin, Rudolf's teacher, mentor and landlord. He says, "Technique is only a means, not an end."
  • Chulpan Khamatova is Xenia, Pushkin's wife. She brings Rudy onion soup...among other things.
  • Maksimilian Grigoriyev is the darling young Rudolf.
  • Adèle Exarchopoulos ("Down by Love") is the enigmatic Clara Saint. Her lover recently died so Nureyev helps her grieve. He boasts "I'm better than Valium!"
  • Raphael Personnaz ("Marius") is the French host and Parisian tour guide, Pierre Lacotte, who plays a key role in Rudy's defection. This actor bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Viggo Mortensen.
Much of the dialogue is in either French or Russian, so captions are necessary. Much of the action takes place in Russia, while the language of ballet is French. Expect bits of nudity (male) and many snippets of familiar ballets. I would have welcomed more!

You will relish mini tours of the Hermitage, the Louvre and loving views of familiar art, all under the ever-present eye of the hovering KGB. As you might expect, this will probably have a release limited to the more "Art House" type theaters. I hope I'm wrong.
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Here is a sample:
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