A limited, if enveloping biopic from Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus) who also co-stars and writer David Hare (Denial, The Reader) concerns the yearning to depart a native land for industrious independence.
The White Crow (mainly in Russian, also English/French with English subtitles) is kind of a triptych through the life of a generation’s preeminent ballet and contemporary dancer (as well as choreographer), Rudolf Nureyev. He would flee the constricting Soviet Union and its Kirov Ballet while on a lengthened tour of Paris.
Fiennes’ bald-pated Alexander Pushkin is an instructive influence in what has grace and beauty to spare, maybe less so in the overall clarity department, and daunting intimacy as in the Stephen Daldry film of passion and war crime. An effective auxiliary turn comes from Adele Exarchopoules as Clara Saint, an important figure in his aspirations.
Vigilant Soviet handlers weren’t pleased about Nureyev’s jazz club frequenting, hobnobbing with locals about art and literature, and life in general in being a shadowy presence in his life. They were copacetic with his gay lifestyle (from a destitute childhood) because of his financial windfalls. But, what was a problem was his vanity and subversive nature, especially surrounding his moods which infuriated other ballet companies (he would go on to be the chief choreographer of the Paris Opera Ballet).
This maverick wasn’t afraid to explore creativity away from the more traditional firm male maneuverings to a more distaff changeability and amateur thespian Oleg Ivenko gets to showcase a bit of his professional ballet artistry as the adult Nureyev in his early 20s at the height of the Cold War. Maybe more dance and less discourse would have been preferred even by those less discerning. Yet, The White Crow, even in its missteps, is another example of Fiennes’ willingness to take risks and often paying off as in a tautly staged airport scene.