Rudolf Nureyev was the most famous male ballet dancer of his generation, and arguably of all time. The Russian started out life in poverty but fame and fortune eventually beckoned. However, his life was tragically curtailed by AIDS at the age of 54. His life was a fascinating one and contains all the key factors to make a great story. Ralph Fiennes’ third film, The White Crow, is a biopic of his early life.
As a young man, Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) was always on the move. He was even born on a train. A precocious talent from a poor background, the dancer was determined to succeed, but this drive made him enemies within the Communist Party. In 1961 he’s in Paris touring with the Kirov Ballet. He enjoys the Western culture and nightlife, but is dogged by KGB minders and still hasn’t made his name. His way in is through French socialite Clara Saint (Adèle Exarchopoulos) but this hedonistic lifestyle increasingly clashes with the will of the Soviet authorities.
The White Crow is impeccably made. There’s an intricacy and dedication to detail from Fiennes which is impressive and gives his film a tough of grandeur. Unfortunately, this rigour is where it also falls short. All too often it feels stand-offish and rather uncommitted. This is not helped by the decision to opt for Ivenko, who is a dancer not an actor, as the famous Russian. Whilst he’s fine and it’s eminently watchable, The White Crow lacks that passion, spark and danger which made Nureyev such a master.
The White Crow is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Studiocanal on 5 August.