The White Crow.

The White Crow

By Joanna Langfield

Not as captivating as it should be, this look at Rudolf Nureyev’s defection still tells an interesting story.

Written by the inimitable David Hare, and directed by Ralph Fiennes, the drama focuses on the Soviet dancer’s six week trip to Paris in 1961. Based on a biography of the ballet sensation, we are led to believe Nureyev was already frustrated with the restrictions put on him by his government, artistically and personally, when his company set up camp in France. Immediately, Rudy takes off on his own, visiting museums, cafes and socializing. None of this is warmly received by his government-employed watchers, who warn him about falling for socialism and other temptations social, too.

With the exception of the moments of dance interspersed, the plot unfolds in a rather perfunctory fashion. There’s no real drama here, little tension. Until Nureyev is told by his handlers he has been called home for a command performance before Khrushchev. Or, is it that his mother is ill? Whichever, he is not to travel with the rest of his company to London and Rudy fears imprisonment. The scenes of his panicked defection, in a Paris airport, are appropriately nerve racking and chilling.

Debuting actor, the Ukranian dancer Oleg Ivenko is tasked with the almost impossible, recreating the notorious icon for the screen. Amazingly, Ivenko comes pretty close to pulling it off. While it’s hard to imagine anyone duplicating the legend’s performances on stage, those scenes here are enticing. And, in the straight dramatic moments, the young man shines.

While the movie chooses to focus on this one short but key passage, it lets us know, however barely, of Nureyev’s homosexuality, skipping over its ramifications under Soviet rule. Still, this thin, potent story reminds us of why so many seek freedom and shelter in homelands other than their own. Even today.