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ISADORA is one of those exquisitely produced big studio films of the late 60s that had a major release for 3 months and then vanished off the face of the earth forever. Some other titles this seemed to have happen to are; YOUNG WINSTON, NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA, MONTECARLO OR BUST (the other "Great Race" movie), STAR!, MAROONED, FINIANS RAINBOW, ON A CLEAR DAY, DARLING LILI....all presented in 70mm as souvenir ticket presentations in luxury cinemas of the time and then.....rarely revived or screened but also never forgotten, because so many people apparently saw them and remember them from this one major release. ISADORA may have been more financially successful than some mentioned above and it did have a huge impact on the beautiful Art Nouveau decor revival of the 60s (Art Deco ate the 70s..or vice versa). The look for the film was a sensation and the impact on teenage girls and their mothers was undeniable, all having a huge impact on free form ballet classes (nymphs and Grecian urns and veils) so hilariously satirized in THE BOYFRIEND in 1972. Vanessa Redgrave is synonymous with this role and one yearns for a cinema presentation of this extraordinary 20s icon now in 2005. I don't remember the film being overly criticized in 1968, it was a hit and respected for its tragic story and superb art direction. Several docos appeared on TV (one even being directed by Ken Russell) and there was quite a celebration of all things ISADORA and Vanessa in that year. But none since.
The bigger than life Isadora Duncan, a dancing legend, is the focus of
this film. "Isadora", which came out in 1968, came and went without
much fanfare. The opportunity to watch it again came when it was shown
on a cable network recently. The main attraction is Vanessa Redgrave's
take in the subject matter.
The biopic, directed by Karel Reisz, follows aspects of Ms. Duncan's life. One thing comes across: she was a woman ahead of her time! Her disregard for classical dance made her famous, although as shown in the film, one wonders what liberties the filmmakers took in Ms. Redgrave's renditions of works created by the famous artist.
Another thing that is clearly evident in the movie is the unhappy life of Isadora. She had no luck with anyone of her lovers. The most famous one was Paris Singer, the son of an American millionaire which ended tragically as their son and her daughter with another man drowned, something that weighed heavily on this tormented woman.
Vanessa Redgrave at the height of her beauty was magnificent in her interpretation of the troubled Isadora. Jason Robards is seen as Paris Singer, the American heir that fell in love with the dancer, but didn't seem to have much in common with her.
There are several versions of this film. The original is rather long, but well worth the time spent viewing it. The subsequent edited versions -- even the so-called "director's cut" -- omit small but crucial events in Isadora's life, without which it becomes more difficult to understand how Isadora sublimated her angst into her art.
Vanessa Redgrave gives a great one in this film. Though I know very little about the real Isadora Duncan it really does not matter for Redgrave is so thoroughly into her character that we think she is Duncan. Redgrave has to rank as one of the great actresses of our time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vanessa Redgrave's ferocious performance dominates this mostly well-mounted but unduly long biography of "modern" dancer Isadora Duncan. So overpowering is Redgrave's performance, it's difficult to recall anything about ISADORA except for her fluttering around. At times she comes off like a turn of the century Stevie Nicks, with her wild hair and layers of flowing dresses. We see Duncan scandalize society on both sides of the Atlantic and then conquer Russia. Along the way she gets involved with every man she meets including Jason Robards as heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. Redgrave clearly throws herself into the part body and soul, although the make-up used to age her is garish. The flashy, time-bending direction by Karel Reisz helps make the film more enjoyable than it otherwise would be and the ending is a stunner even if you know what happened to Duncan.
Why this excellent film is not available on DVD is beyond me. I just recently watched the film on an old VHS tape borrowed from the library. It was well worn and faded, but I was riveted by the amazing performance of Vanessa Redgrave as the famous dancer Isadora Duncan. I would love to see the original 168 minute film released (I viewed a cut version) in all it's intended glory. Ms. Redgrave was nominated in 1968 for her role in this film, but lost to Barbra Streisand and Katherine Hepburn. It was obviously a very strong category that year for best actress. However, this performance by Ms. Redgrave should be available to see today on Blu Ray. In my opinion, it is not to be missed. Film fans take note! If you have not seen this film, search it out. Check your local library for the VHS tape if you still have a VCR for it is well worth viewing the wonderful performance by the legendary Vanessa Redgrave.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vanessa Redgrave who should be awarded Dame Commander of the British Empire if it was up to me but she declined damehood in 1999 and even regrets accepting the C.B.E. in 1967. She gives one of her best and memorable performances as the legendary dancer, Isadora Duncan. It is a long and memorable movie. THe best lover in my opinion is the foreign piano lover who is described first by Isadora as "hideous and revolting." When they finally share a carriage ride, she begins to recognize his inner beauty of another artist. Isadora's life is also tragic with the loss of her two children in a dreadful car accident. This film is really Vanessa Redgrave's vehicle. She drives smoothly from beginning to end. American actress, Cynthia Harris, does a good job in a featured role in this film. So does Jason Robards and others who bring the life to this wonderful creature.
Over the past weekend, I viewed a VHS of Isadora. Throughout the movie (and I assume this was in the script), the motif of the scarf is repeated in various ways showing that she loved scarves and billowy fabric; even if she didn't in real life, the reinforcement of the scarf (as well as her pursuit of the man driving the Bugatti), gives her death a logic and finality that "real" life cannot. Surely, Isadora's death must have been so fictional as not to be believed, as well as the fate of her children. Film-makers must craft a film in such a way that the viewer believes that every moment is true. Compare this screenplay with what Robert McKee says about writing screenplays in his incomparable book, Story, and you'll agree that the Isadora screenplay is undervalued. Also, Redgrave's performance is surely one of the finest of any era--and should have gotten the Oscar, but thankfully won at Cannes (outside the Hollywood political machine). The length of the film, to me, was no problem; the life of Isadora Duncan, could not have been shown in less. The stage scenes of her dancing were perfectly directed and illustrated how she could fill a theatre while also being rejected.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Occasionally interesting bio about a not-too-intelligent dancer called
Isadora Duncan. If this film is anything to judge her by, then I would
describe her as arrogant, stupid, self-delusional, self-obsessed,
narcissistic, shallow, and slightly insane. (So pretty much like a
certain actress involved in this.) The Russian poet she marries is a
pathetic moron who looks like a clown. He shortly after commits
suicide, a decision one might understand in view of the fact regarding
his character and life.
The movie is too long; it's not that it's badly made, but, rather, the problem is that the dance scenes are utterly dull, and that Duncan was neither a "deep" enough person, nor was her achievement anything to shout about (I mean she was just a dancer - big deal) - and a Communist on top of that. The high point of the movie is the last scene, in which she dies by getting strangled by her own clothes that get stuck on the wheel of a car she's in. A very good scene and very surprising. Like in a horror film.
As for dancing, what a dumb activity that is. To quote a friend of mine: "women must have invented all those ritualistic pair dancing routines which are designed to check if your testicles are small and warm enough for him to be with a woman forever".
Now to quote a dumb critic: "Isabela was the the most prominent free-thinker of her time." So to sleep around and succumb to Marxism's imbecilic philosophy constitutes free thinking, huh?
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