The White Crow ***
Starring: Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Raphaël Personnaz, Chulpan Khamatova Director: Ralph Fiennes Country: France Rudolf Nureyev was one of the most acclaimed dancers in history. Known all over the world for his remarkable skill, his star was really ignited when he defected to the West from his native Soviet Russia in 1961. Dancer Oleg Ivenko makes a strong debut as Nureyev, with Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Harry Potter) both behind the camera and in front, playing his Russian tutor Pushkin. Focusing on his time in Paris at the Palais Garnier, we see a precocious young rebel who doesn’t abide by the Soviet insistence that the Russian dancers keep themselves to themselves. Forging friendships (Exarchopoulos, Personnaz) and relationships (Hofmann) with those he knows he shouldn’t, he is able to live in the moment as long as he remains in the West. But, of course, he is being watched and sooner or later will be summoned back to Moscow. The scenes about his defection at the airport are a tense piece of filmmaking reminiscent of Argo, but serving as the climax of the film we have to wait a long time to get to it. The film meanders through Nureyev’s early history and skips back and forth in a timeline that is considerably more interesting in its present than its past. Black and white memory sequences give us fragmented memories of his childhood but serve only as extra emphasis on the film’s insistence West = good, East = bad. Nureyev was clearly an outstanding performer and Ivenko does a remarkable job at recreating that. But he is also depicted as arrogant and reckless. He might have been a young prodigy but he does little to help himself politically as he digs himself further into the hole created by his sense of entitlement. At its strongest, this is a Cold War cat-and-mouse thriller with bite. At its weakest, this is an overly-reverent biopic with an unpleasant protagonist. OUT NOW ON DVD AND ON DEMAND, RELEASED BY STUDIOCANAL.