The Dancer (La Danseuse) (NR)

Drama 108 min. December 1, 2017
By Elizabeth Zimmer
Call it a bio-fic, this opulent first feature from Stephanie Di Giusto. It looks like a commercial for feminine hygiene products, betraying Di Giusto's background as an art director. It features stunning cinematic re-creations of the choreography of Loie Fuller, a fin de siecle performer who harnessed the magic of fabric and light and became the toast of belle epoque Europe. But it utterly upends the truth of Fuller's life, and smears another matriarch of modern dance, Isadora Duncan.

French pop star-turned-actor Soko, not herself a dancer, got weeks of intensive coaching from American choreographer Jody Sperling, a specialist in the work of Fuller, nee Mary Louise Fuller of Illinois. Soko is onscreen constantly throughout the film, witnessing the violent death of her father on a western ranch, suffering the oppression of her strait-laced mother in Brooklyn, scheming the technology (and stealing the cash) required to realize her brilliant, angelic visions at the Folies Bergere. She finally gets her wish -- a gig at the Paris Opera -- only to fall apart physically at a crucial moment.

Most of the Paris theater scenes are shot in Prague, and most of the biographical stuff is fiction. Fuller was gay, and the film plays up the strong feelings her assistant (Melanie Thierry) has for her. But it takes a working relationship she had with the ample brunette dance revolutionary Isadora Duncan, who did study with Fuller, and turns it into a crush on a nubile blonde played by the too-young Lily-Rose Depp, who here feigns affection for the heroine to finagle a better contract. This and other evasions of fact render the project suspect, but the chance to observe Fuller's genius realized onstage almost redeems it.
Stéphanie Di Giusto Soko, Gaspard Ulliel, Mélanie Thierry, Lily-Rose Depp, François Damiens, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Amanda Plummer, Denis Ménochet Stéphanie Di Giusto, Sarah Thibau Alain Attal Myriad Pictures

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