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In 1926 the tragic and untimely death of a silent screen actor caused female moviegoers to riot in the streets and in some cases to commit suicide - that actor was Rudolph Valentino. Ballroom dancer Valentino manipulated his good looks and animal-like grace into a Hollywood career. His smouldering love making, tinged with a touch of masterful cruelty, expressed a sexuality which was at once both shocking and sensual. Written by
A film that purports to tell the true story of Valentino (played by Rudolph Nureyev). It doesn't. It does bring up his alleged homosexuality (heck, it opens with him dancing with a man!) and the fact that his two wives were both lesbians. But, according to this, Valentino was seriously wounded in a boxing match that led to his death. There never was a boxing match. That's one of many inaccuracies in the film. Still, Ken Russell's films always play quick and loose with the facts so it didn't really bother me. This is one of his better films--but not one of his best.
It starts off with Valentino's funeral and, one by one, we meet the women in his life and (by flashback) we see his life and career. The two main ones are Alla Nazimova (Leslie Caron) and Natasha Rambova (Michelle Phillips). Nazimova's entrance into Valentino's is a REAL eye-popper (even by Russell standards) and really has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately Caron is not that good in the part. She overplays way too much. She does fake a Russian accent--but it renders most of her dialogue unintelligible. Phillips is much better as Rambova. She doesn't try and fake an accent and gives a very easy-going, pleasing performance.
The sets are just beautiful--large, colorful (especially the funeral) and really opulent. Ditto the costumes--they're true to the period and just look great. The picture moves quickly and I was never bored. So why do I think it's only good and not great? One word--Nureyev.
He's terrible. He looks nothing like Valentino--Valentino was handsome, Nureyev isn't. Also Valentino was 31 when he died--Nureyev was 39 when he made this--and looks it. Valentino was a tall, muscular man. Nureyev is short and not muscular at all. However he IS nicely toned (from all that dancing) and he holds his own in a surprising nude scene (with a full frontal shot). Also he's Russian and he tries to imitate an Italian accent--it makes most of his dialogue incomprehensible (the dialogue scenes between him and Caron are bewildering--neither one can be understood!). Also Nureyev was known for his dancing, not acting. He really does try and occasionally pulls out a good moment or two but, ultimately, he's all wrong for the role. And there are way too many sequences of Nureyev dancing. His dancing is great...but Valentino was not really known for that.
I do recommend it but I really wonder what Russell was thinking when he cast Nureyev. A must for Russell fans.
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