I Am a Dancer (1972)

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Released 9-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 88:26
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Pierre Jourdan
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Rudolf Nureyev
Margot Fonteyn
Carla Fracci
Lynn Seymour
Deanne Bergsma
Michael Somes
Glen Tetley
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Franz Liszt


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     If I asked you very quickly to think of a male classical ballet dancer, who would you think of? The chances are extremely high that the name that flashed up to you was Rudolf Nureyev. Born, literally, on a speeding Trans-Siberian express train in Russia, the pace of his life never really slowed down. Brought up in poverty, and with a military father who was unsympathetic to his son's passion for dancing, Nureyev managed to barge a place for himself in the Leningrad Choreographic Institute, in spite of being far too old at the age of 17! His placement in the company was frequently opposed because, according to their precise technical standards, he lacked the physical technique required. However, what he may have lacked in technique, he more than compensated for in instinct, determination, passion and musicality. He had the capacity to completely indwell a piece of music, and deliver a physical expression of its timbres and notes in the way that transported an audience within a mystical world. He had magnetism, dynamism and he had sex appeal! From the moment he first performed, he had audiences hooked! Soon, he secured a berth in the Kirov Ballet Company, the famed Russian touring company, and, on his excursions with the company, he developed his taste for the West, and freedom.

     The drama he portrayed on stage seems to be an extension of the context in which he lived his life. Reading a biography of his days is like reading a suspense novel - packed with espionage, dangerous dalliance, drama, intrigue surprising twists and turns. His defection in Paris in 1961 reads like a John Le Carré page-turner. The KGB had already taken an interest in him, considering him far too enamoured of all things Western for their liking. They decided to intercept the Kirov in Paris and return Nureyev to Moscow, rather than allow him to travel on to London. Desperate, Nureyev appealed to a Parisian friend, Pierre Lacotte who sent mutual associate Clara Saint to the airport. Posing as an adoring fan, she broke from the pack, pretending to kiss his cheek while whispering hurried instructions into Rudolf's ear. She had assembled French police who had agreed to protect him should he be able to break free of his minders.

      'I want to stay in France,' he cried dramatically in English - leaping the few yards between the KGB goons and the waiting police. With agents grabbing out for him, he ensconced himself in the bosom of the flanked constabulary, and Nureyev's Western adventure had begun.

     For the next 32 years, he was the epitome of male classical dancing, and frequently the darling of the In crowd. He was famous for his extraordinary dancing ability and spirit, and, in that 60s era of golden celebrity, he was also famous for being famous. His rough peasant manners and his relentless quest for perfection coalesced into the image of a terrible demi-god of dance. His name alone could pack concert houses and theatres all over Europe, and his famous pairing with Dame Margot Fonteyn provided classical ballet with its own golden pair.

     I tell you all this, because in the documentary, I Am A Dancer, you will get none of it. Created in 1973 and narrated by Bryan Forbes, it is standard early 70s fare that purports to strip back the layers of the glittering world of dance, but barely delivers. I actually thoroughly enjoyed watching the ballet classes - sweat dripping from a deeply concentrating Nureyev as he focuses on the subtlest of manipulations of each muscle. Having myself been one of countless thousands of little kids who "did" ballet, the slightest adjustment to his "turnout" had its own fascination. One can almost smell the rosin, the sweat, the dust - and after some time, one's own muscles start to groan in sympathy. We are also treated to excerpts from his dancing and pas des deux, not just with Fonteyn, but with the lighter than air Carla Fracci, Lynn Seymour and Deanne Bergsma.

     But if you don't have a particular fascination with dance, I doubt this would be the film for you. It is clumsy, somewhat truncated, and frequently far too self -conscious. It neither truly reveals the world of dance, nor truly reveals the man. Having said that, it is a bit of a time capsule, and certainly shows the contemporary reverence for Nureyev, twenty years before his tragic loss to the world from HIV-AIDS in 1993.

     I doubt they'd get away with this film today, but in its own geeky, cheesy way, I kind of liked it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 which, given its original aspect of 1.37:1, I suppose is acceptable.

     The presentation truly shows the age of its original stock, with little attempt at cleaning it up. There are significant levels of low level noise, the contrast is pretty ordinary and it's none too sharp.

     The colour is equally tired and washed out.

     This presentation is loaded to the gunnels with dust spots, scratches and high grain levels. It's all rather grubby really, although there don't appear to be too many sins committed in the transfer itself - if you regard directly transferring stock without cleaning it up at all as a blameless act.

     This is a dual layered disc, with the layer change at 52:39, but it presents no disruption at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The soundtrack is delivered in English Dolby Digital 2.0 from a mono track so there's not much action in the speakers.

     The dialogue is barely existent in the film, and when there, is mostly a muffled backtrack to the narration. Discussions of audio sync are largely irrelevant, given the nature of the treatment, and there are no subtitles.

     There is no real score per se in this film. The classes and the performances are recorded with only their natural sound, with no real incidental music added.

     There is absolutely no sense of direction in the audio and the subwoofer just sat back and enjoyed the performance.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

     The menu is static and silent.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

      This appears to be available only on VHS in America, so R4 wins by default.

Summary

     One for the enthusiasts.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Monday, October 25, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
Speakers fronts-paradigm titans, centre &rear Sony - radio parts subbie

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