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Made two years before Karel Reiz's polished, lengthy (168 minutes) larger budgeted film, Isadora, featuring Vanessa Redgrave, Ken Russel utilizing the same writer (Sewell Stokes) made this modestly budgeted, coarser work with doughy for a dancer Vivien Pickles. Received well in its day, the Reiz work is impressive in look and performance but the grit, bite and audacity in Russell's in under an hour's running time offers a far better ride.
Opening with a brief outline of the subject Russell quickly amps up the energy as Isadora moves from one lover, school and cause to the next that takes her from the US and Europe before embarking for communist Russia to open a new school. A life filled with controversy and tragedy Russell fills the biography with provocative imagery, conveying much of it with a lively burlesque that moves things along at a brisk pace.
Far from having the gamine like grace and equiline features of Redgrave, Vivian Pickles offers a somewhat slovenly and abrasive interpretation of the dancer that is perfectly suited to convey Russell's darkly humorous sensibility.
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