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The White Crow


The story of Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the West.

"Why did world-renowned Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defect? That’s the question raised by Ralph Fiennes’ lovely, elegant The White Crow, a dance-heavy biopic that focuses on Nureyev’s childhood, training, and life-changing visit to Paris with the Kirov Ballet, culminating in his decision to seek asylum in France.

Nureyev (played by Ukranian dancer Oleg Ivenko) was raised poor and trained by the state, but somewhere along the way developed an ego of the sort better suited to Western countries, where self-interest is a way of life. That tension – the desire to be recognized and appreciated, rather than putting the team first – underlies Nureyev’s decisions once he reaches Paris in 1961.

There, he befriends French dancer Pierre Lacotte (Raphaël Peronnaz), and flirts with Pierre’s friend Clara Saint (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Clara is mourning the death of her lover, who just happens to be the son of France’s minister of cultural affairs – and a good ally to have when seeking political asylum.

The White Crow doesn’t shy away from Nureyev’s love life, tastefully showing the rising star experimenting with partners of both genders. But it is his relationship with Clara that proves most intriguing. She’s clearly from a class far above Nureyev’s hardscrabble roots, but responds to his coarse, direct attitude.

For years, it was believed that Nureyev had premeditated his defection, but The White Crow offers a different interpretation, treating it as a spontaneous decision – and therefore the most life-altering of his caprices. Although the many ballet scenes are stunning, to say the least, it’s the climax at the airport that audiences have come to see, using whatever clues the film has supplied to answer the mysterious question of why he did it." – Peter Debruge, Variety

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Directed by: 
Ralph Fiennes
Running Time: 
UK, France
Russian, English, French
leg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann
Screenplay by: 
David Hare, Julie Kavanagh (book)

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