Both Duncan & Redgrave Poorly Served,
by Jeff Farrow
Before other reviewers put out a
contract hit on me, let me state for the record: Isadora Duncan has been a
great inspiration in my life & I adore Vanessa Redgrave. OK. That said
there are a few things wrong with ISADORA.
1. The script is weak, inaccurate & full of holes.
2. The direction is non-existent, often leaving Redgrave to wallow in superficial emotions.
3. The rest of the cast is weak & come off as silly stereotypes (Paris Singer) or just artsy fartsy (Gordon Craig).
4. The Russian segments are terrible & totally historically inaccurate.
5. The editing/continuity is downright schizophrenic.
6. The film quality is atrocious.
All of these factors conspire against what could have been a tremendous work of filmmaking. The relationships are left completely unexplored, with silly responses & pathos replacing depth of character, plot & situation.
For example: In the scene where Isadora performs her famous interpretation of "Marche Slave" before the upper crust in Boston. The dance begins with Duncan portraying a peasant/worker in a torn tunic with hands bound. She reacts to an invisible whipping. As the music swells she tosses off her (again invisible) chains in defiance. At the conclusion she is wrapped in a simple red revolutionary cloth. The audience begins to hiss & boo. In reaction, Vanessa/Isadora flings off the robe, revealing her breasts. The problem is her breasts are CENSORED OUT--and with very choppy editing--and police rush the stage & quickly cover her up. So what's the point of the scene? To show that even a modern film about Isadora Duncan has to be censored? It's hypocritical & typical of the production in general.
I gave ISADORA 3 stars because it IS about Duncan and it DOES feature Redgrave. Due to the political situation in the world today it is very unlikely that anyone will ever attempt another film about the famous American dancer, good or not. So this ISADORA is all we've got.
Fellow Isadora/Vanessa fans, please don't hate me too much.
NOTE: In to the book ISADORA, THE RUSSIAN YEARS (good luck locating a copy), the Russian translator & cultural diplomat assigned to Isadora revealed an interesting story. Isadora had arranged a free concert for the workers in Moscow. When it was learned that she would perform the Marche Slave and that Tchaikovsky's score contained the Russian Imperial Anthem, a cry was raised by bureaucrats to forbid its' inclusion in the program. Of course Isadora interpreted that anthem to be the very force of oppression her character was fighting against, but bureaucrats are the same all the world over. However, Lenin was in the audience & when he heard about the uproar he said, "Leave Isadora alone. She has a lot to learn about our revolution, but we have a lot to learn from her as well."