Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Biography, Dance, Documentary

Imagine an obsessive love between a shy, sheltered Midwestern teenager and a married, middle-aged man of the world whose vivacious fifth wife has recently been cruelly crippled by polio. The stuff of overheated melodrama, with a nasty hint of Lolita-ism? Perhaps. But it's also the story of ballerina Suzanne Farrell, one of the great classical dancers of...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Imagine an obsessive love between a shy, sheltered Midwestern teenager and a married, middle-aged man of the world whose vivacious fifth wife has recently been cruelly crippled by polio. The stuff of overheated melodrama, with a nasty hint of

Lolita-ism? Perhaps. But it's also the story of ballerina Suzanne Farrell, one of the great classical dancers of our time (she retired in 1988, age 43), and the late George Balanchine, the choreographer whose vision of a uniquely American style of dancing -- equal parts Russian classicism

and jazz-inflected brashness, delivered with daredevil speed and abandon -- changed the shape of 20th-century ballet. Anne Belle and Deborah Dickson (whose previous documentaries include BALANCHINE'S BALLERINAS) let the poised and quietly articulate Farrell take center stage, though there's rich

material in the supporting interviews: Her mother, in particular, is quite a piece of work. In-the-know ballet fans will gripe about the gossip Bell and Dickson choose not to pursue, but they'll also thrill to the old footage of Farrell and her contemporaries on stage, in class and rehearsing.

That this unsensational documentary, set against the backdrop of a world utterly alien to the average viewer, was nominated for an Academy Award speaks volumes about the story's universal appeal. And the aura of serene sadness that surrounds Farrell is truly haunting.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Imagine an obsessive love between a shy, sheltered Midwestern teenager and a married, middle-aged man of the world whose vivacious fifth wife has recently been cruelly crippled by polio. The stuff of overheated melodrama, with a nasty hint of Lolita-ism?… (more)

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