Isadora ( The Loves of Isadora )
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France released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 2.0 ), French ( Subtitles ), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: Vanessa Redgrave stars in this film biography of the free-spirited, modern, interpretive dancer Isadora Duncan. Trained in classical dance, Duncan shattered the traditional conformities in her art and her personal life. The film begins at the end of her life as she recalls the past while dictating her memoirs to her male secretary. Her uninhibited sexuality and insistence on personal freedom and expression shocked more conservative and narrow-minded patrons and audiences. She brought in elements of classic Greek dance during the height of the jazz age and had children in and out of wedlock. Married to sewing-machine heir Paris Singer (Jason Robards) and the Russian poet Sergei Essenin (Ivan Tchenko), her life was a rollercoaster ride of success and tragic failures. Two of her children drowned when her chauffeur left the car unattended and the vehicle plunged into a river. Duncan lived by her own rules, often shunned by the very people who had so passionately embraced her pioneering efforts in dance, women's liberation and free thinking. Redgrave was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. SCREENED/AWARDED AT: BAFTA Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Golden Globes, Oscar Academy Awards, ...Isadora ( The Loves of Isadora )
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The film is always beautiful to look at - the style seems to suggest that there were many similarities between the Twenties and the Sixties. I don't know about that, but the film has a splendid period feel. The gorgeous Croatian resort of Opatija was an inspired choice to represent the French Riviera of the Twenties. A lot of attention has been paid to all the detail. Too bad, therefore, that Maurice Jarre's music seems to reflect neither the era nor the character of Isadora - at least Bye Bye Blackbird provides an appropriate background.
Director Karel Reisz deserves much praise for making the enigmatic character of Isadora as accessible as he does. The script tries hard to illuminate her by concentrating on key events in her life rather than making a conventional biopic for this very unconventional person. But it constantly and somewhat needlessly jumps back and forth in time which is occasionally confusing. The concentration on Isadora is so absolute that the other people in her life come and go with barely a word of introduction or explanation. And in a film that concentrates as much on Isadora's love life as her dancing, her bisexuality is curiously ignored. Our view of Isadora is more impression than insight.
Even so, Vanessa Redgrave treats us to a remarkable performance - making Isadora as credible as she was outrageous. She is also surprisingly good in the dance sequences, some of which are quite stunningly staged. Redgrave's American accent may wander a bit, but she holds nothing back in baring Isadora's soul to us. It is a powerful performance.
All the other actors are truly just supporting. Cast against type, James Fox has a great time as the extravagent designer Gordon Craig. Jason Robards, by contrast, is permanently morose as millionaire Paris Singer. As the Russian poet who eventually marries Isadora, Ivan Tchenko is full of fire and vodka. Special mention should be made of John Fraser who plays Isadora's long-suffering secretary Roger. Fraser was a wonderful actor in some significant films in the Sixties (El Cid, Repulsion, Tunes of Glory) yet stardom somehow eluded him. He gives the second best performance in Isadora - an expertly judged mixture of devotion and exasperation.
But the film really belongs to Vanessa Redgrave and Karel Reisz. Together, they create many memorable moment. The best of these is when Isadora is dancing for an audience of Russians just after the Revolution. Suddenly, a power failure puts the lights out. Isadora is given a lantern and someone starts to sing. Soon everyone is singing and dancing an impormptu and emotional version of Kalinka. The scene captures Isadora's love of dance, the Russian soul, the universal appeal of art, and everything that is good about film. We are both touched and thrilled. It is too much to expect the film to be that good all the way through. But it's wonderful to see Isadora getting the remastered DVD release it so richly deserves.
Extra - One of the extras on the second disc is a film of Kenneth Macmillan's controversial ballet Isadora performed by the Royal Ballet. I assume this is the version broadcast on ITV in 1982. The Royal Ballet recently revived this ballet in a drastically shortened version but the full ballet has not been seen in many years (I saw it in 1983). It's an equally fascinating portrayal of Isadora and her life although it received quite mixed reviews. Its inclusion here is, for me at any rate, worth the price of the DVD.
The film itself is beautifully shot and Vanessa Redgrave's performance is nothing short of stunning. Also worth mentioning is Maurice Jarre's beautiful original film score.
The run time of the main feature on the Odeon Entertainment 2 disc collector's edition is 134 minutes. The audio language is ENGLISH ONLY (not German as is currently stated in the product description!). There are no subtitles. Picture and sound quality of the main feature are excellent.
Bonus features on disc 1:
- Stills gallery
- Aquarius - Isadora Duncan (11 mins)
- Archive footage of Isadora Duncan (only a few seconds, but apparently this is all the film footage that is known to exist of the great Isadora Duncan)
- The Royal Ballet perform Isadora. A ballet by Kenneth MacMillan (106 mins).
The only previous release of ISADORA was on VHS - 153 min. - " a special director's cut" - this version was a revelation to us who had never seen the original cut -- continuity is much better in this version because Reisz was in charge - not so with this abbreviated cut.
It is great to have an official widescreen print finally on DVD so I recommend it . But what a wasted chance -- no interviews with any of the surviving principals - Redgrave, James Fox, John Fraser, Melvyn Bragg, etc. - no making of documentary -- no vintage material on the film - just on Isadora Duncan-
As much as I love Hepburn in LION IN WINTER + like Streisand in FUNNY GIRL(the only tie ever for this award) , Vanessa Redgrave deserved the Oscar for best Actress in 1969.
The region 2 import from France (from Doriane Films) is a handsome wide screen (1.85) transfer.
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As to the film itself, Vanessa Redgrave gives a magnificent performance. The production is quite well done.Read more