Director Ralph Fiennes captures the raw physicality and brilliance of Rudolf Nureyev, whose escape to the West stunned the world at the height of the Cold War. With his magnetic presence, Nureyev emerged as ballet’s most famous star, a wild and beautiful dancer limited by the world of 1950s Leningrad. His flirtation with Western artists and ideas led him into a high-stakes game of cat and mouse with the KGB.
User Reviews: Based on the life of Rudolf Nureyev (portrayed by Oleg Ivenko): in different time segments, the life of the ballet great is depicted during his childhood in rural Eastern Russia; his late teen years training in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg); and the Kirov Ballet tour in Paris of 1961 during which Nureyev made a decision that changed his life significantly. The film is based on the novel "Rudolf Nureyev: A Life" by Julie Kavanaugh and is a British/French/Serbian co-production spoken in Russian, French, and English.
One of the enjoyable aspects of the film is following the young man’s transition from a rural area into cities as grand as Leningrad and Paris and his awestruck fascination with the visual arts at his disposal. This can easily remind many viewers of their first travel experiences and having felt the same elation.
The three different time sequences are done concurrently which is sometimes jarring and unnecessary. The film would probably have been better if done chronologically with only occasional flashbacks.
Around the halfway mark of the film, Nureyev is showing a lot of irritability in a restaurant scene. It is at this mark that the viewer could feel equally irritated after having had enough of the frequent timeline changes and the film’s reduced energy by that point. Also in that scene, while Nureyev is showing a strong reaction to class prejudice from other Russians, there was little to indicate this problem in earlier scenes. His rudeness seems to come out of nowhere.
Despite these criticisms, it is all worth it for the extended climactic scene at Paris’ Le Bourget Airport (very well re-constructed to resemble its appearance in the early 1960s). Much like the final airport scene in "Argo", the one here has suspense, tension, and mystery even if the outcome is already well known.
"The White Crow" is a fine tribute to an artistic icon and a good depiction of the life of a genius in a restrictive, Communist country although it would have benefited to explore more on another restriction in Rudolf’s life under Communisim – his homosexuality. Considering the film concluded when its subject was still very young, it is tempting to encourage a sequel for the remainder of such a very unique life of an extremely rare individual who radically changed fate for his own life and that of the ballet world.