Isadora - when she danced
By a customer
, 12 Jul 2011
Vanessa Redgrave gives a brave and brilliant performance as the legendary dancer Isadora Duncan who scandalised society of the early 1900's. If anyone doubted her beauty and extraordinary talent, this film is enough to convince you that Redgrave could have been a great, great star if she had been given the right vehicles. The film is set in 1927, the last year of Duncan's life, while she is living on the Riviera, running out of money, and dictating her memoirs, her past life unfolding in a rather confusing series of flashbacks. The flashbacks deal with her various affairs with the noted stage designer Gordon Craig (James Fox), the millionaire Paris Singer (Jason Robards), and the famous Russian poet Sergei Esenin (Ivan Tchenko aka Vladimir Crnko) and are punctuated by recreations of Isadora's dances (choreographed by Litz Pisk). As the young Isadora, Redgrave is radiant, but she is also completely convincing as the middle-aged acerbic character she became, it is difficult to believe it is the same actress.
So why is it not a great film? The fault lies with ultimately with Melvyn Bragg's screenplay which fails to craft a satisfactorily fluid narrative out of Duncan's colourful life. In 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' Karel Reisz had the advantage of a very skilfully organised script by Harold Pinter, and the lack of such expertise is painfully apparent here, though the production values of the film cannot be faulted.It is also perhaps unfortunate that the best they could come up with in casting the angelic looking Esenin was an actor who, although undoubtedly Slav, looked more like a rather stroppy Boris Johnson, and has a very dubious Russian accent.
However, if you want to see a great actress at her peak, look no futher - this is the film for you.
Extras include an excerpt from the arts programme Aquarius with Peter Hall talking about Duncan to a ballet critic, and Lynn Seymour dancing a short Ashton-choreographed homage to Duncan to a Brahms waltz.
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