Loïe Fuller was the toast of the Folies Bergères at the turn of the 20th century and an inspiration for Toulouse-Lautrec and the Lumière Brothers. The film revolves around her complicated relationship with protégé and rival Isadora Duncan.
There was nothing in her background to prepare Loïe to become the toast of the Folies Bergères in Paris and stages across the world. Then she created the 'Serpentine Dance'... 1887. After the death of her gold prospector father, 25-year-old Marie-Louise leaves her life in the American West to join her mother in New York and pursue her heart's dream - becoming an actress. One night on stage, becoming tangled in her long dress, she avoids falling by spinning the fabric in a graceful, magical gesture: the "Serpentine Dance" is born. The audience - shocked, then overwhelmed - calls out for more. Marie-Louise has become Loïe Fuller. She embarks on a new, hectic life, leaving New York, where imitators try to steal her radical innovations, for Paris. At the Folies Bergères, she dazzles the capital, and illustrious admirers fall at her feet. Toulouse Lautrec, the Lumière Brothers, Rodin... the Electric Fairy becomes an icon, the blazing symbol of a generation. But fame isn't all. An encounter...Written by
Loie first performed at the Follies Bergere in the early 1890s, but the director of the Follies Bergere is driving an "olde tymey" car from perhaps 2 decades later when Loie ambushes him in his carpark in order to present an impromptu audition. See more »
For the last several decades, we have had movies showing us the grime behind the apparently beautiful world of the dance. This is another in that by now too long series, one that has nothing new to add. We see lots of ugly backstage scenes, and then, very rarely, a glimpse of the beauty of a Fuller performance.
Part of that is because, if one were to judge from this movie, Fuller was very much a one-trick pony. She was not, in any significant sense, a dancer. Rather, she was a show woman who figured out how to use lighting and mirrors to create a beautiful, magical effect as she twirled around waving robes extended on bamboo batons.
In fact, however, the real Loie Fuller was a fascinating and very versatile woman involved in developing new lighting techniques and all sorts of other things to improve stage performance. This movie VERY much shortchanges her, and should not in any way be taken as a biopic. Why a woman director would reduce an evidently very intelligent and interesting woman to a pouting bundle of uncontrolled emotions I do not know.
If you were to believe this movie - and you shouldn't - there really wasn't much to Fuller's art. Nothing like ballet, or modern dance, or jazz dancing, or ... Just twirling around, waving her robes, while different colored lights and background mirrors enhanced the effect.
So we are left with her life. If it was at all as it is presented in the movie, and there is no reason to assume that that was the case, it was pretty miserable. We see that she spends lots of time building up her shoulder muscles so she can keep waving those robes, with the result that her arms often hurt. The light from the colored light hurts her eyes. She ends up in several confusing and bad relationships. A rough life, in other words. But the movie does nothing to make us care.
This movie needed a MUCH better script to make us understand and sympathize with Fuller. Otherwise, except for the few moments when she goes into her dance, it's just a lot of uncontrolled emotions that we have no reason to care about. It seems a real shame to have reduced what was evidently a very interesting and intelligent woman to a bundle of uninteresting emotions.
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