An impressionistic collage of words and images inspired by the diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky, a tragic legend of 20th-century dance. In his heyday, Nijinsky was internationally renowned. Born in Russia (in 1888, '89 or '90, depending on the source) to Polish parents, both professional dancers, Nijinsky studied at St. Petersburg's famed Imperial Ballet School and was recognized as a star in the making, despite his short, stocky build the exact opposite of classical ballet's ideal male form. Nijinsky left Russia in 1908 and joined flamboyant impresario Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, which attracted the cream of the era's musicians, dancers and artists. Nijinsky awed audiences with his soaring leaps (people said that at the height of his jump, he appeared to be suspended briefly in mid-air) and he had the sensual, beefcake appeal of silent movie idol Rudolf Valentino, sharing Valentino's fondness for luxurious, physique-revealing costumes. Two of the four ballets Nijinsky choreographed made international headlines: His erotically charged Afternoon of a Faun was denounced as obscene (mostly for a bit of suggestive scarf fondling) and his atavistic Rite of Spring, to Igor Stravinsky's daringly dissonant score, caused a near-riot at its Paris premiere. Nijinsky's tempestuous relationship with Diaghilev, his lover and mentor, ended badly when the dancer impulsively married Hungarian aristocrat Romola de Pulszky while on tour in South America. Diaghilev fired him, his career faltered and he spiraled into madness, dying in 1950 after years spent cycling in and out of institutions. It helps to come to Paul Cox's film armed with this information, because Nijinsky's notorious diaries (not published in unexpurgated form until 1999), written over the course of six feverish weeks in 1919, are a dark chronicle of encroaching madness rather than a coherent memoir. Cox juxtaposes shots of the natural beauty Nijinsky adored (flowers, birds, cascading streams) with footage of dancers in his signature roles the rose spirit, Harlequin, the blue god, Scheherezade's golden slave, the lustful faun and the tragic puppet Petrouschka while Derek Jacobi reads Nijinsky's musings about God, sex, philosophy and madness in his plummiest master-thespian tones. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes clear that Nijinsky's disordered thoughts are simply the rantings of a man losing his grip on reality. They're sad and occasionally evocative, but they're not especially interesting in and of themselves, and do nothing to evoke or illuminate Nijinsky's genius. For dance completists only.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: NR
- Review: An impressionistic collage of words and images inspired by the diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky, a tragic legend of 20th-century dance. In his heyday, Nijinsky was internationally renowned. Born in Russia (in 1888, '89 or '90, depending on the source) to Polish… (more)