Unrefined Animation Treatment Fails To Spoil A Balletic Delight.
This ballet, formed from a much beloved as well as archetypal Russian folk tale was created for the Bolshoi Ballet's Maya Plisetskaya by her husband, supremely skillful orchestrator Rodion Shchedrin, composer of the work. Lissome Plisetskaya's recognized strengths, here as the Queen Maiden, are clearly in evidence throughout the film: matchless elevation, splendidly disciplined movements, and emotional interpretation that covers a wide range. English ballerina Alicia Markova's published comment that Plisetskaya is incapable of completing fouettés is thoroughly discredited as the latter lightly tosses off more than the 32 of these demanding turns that have become traditional in the role of Odile in Le Lac des Cygnes, to which Markova refers. Plisetskaya is partnered here by a youthful Vladimir Vasiliev, (later both General, and Artistic, Director of the Bolshoi Theatre), whose acrobatic flair as Ivan is on display, his highly accomplished technique nearly matching in worthiness that of the great ballerina. Partly filmed during an actual performance at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow that utilizes original sets crafted for the piece, the narrative rhythm of the ballet is nearly daunted by an attempt to augment its essentially folkloric elements with primordial animation, in addition to superimposition and uninspiring table top models, but fortunately the narrative and dancing prevail. The Bolshoi's house Ballet Master, Alexandre Radunsky, not only choreographs and scripts the production, but also plays as the King, and Alla Scherbinina is wonderful as the Little Humpbacked Horse whose conjuring powers are of signal importance to Ivan, while the Bolshoi Corps and soloists are as accomplished as ever in secondary but crucial character parts. The film has no dialogue as produced by Mosfilm, and certainly none is required, but English language voice-over narration is added by Artkino and accompanies a Kultur release, not in the event inappropriate as it is spare while yet being descriptive of the storyline's progress. At any rate, all else fades from a viewer's attention when Maya Plisetkaya dances.
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