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Isadora Movie Review

duncan redgrave life actress

Isadora, quite literally, saved my life. The sequence in which Isadora Duncan meets her death when her scarf wraps around the spokes of her car wheel is so final, so graphic, and so horrifying that I remembered it when MY scarf wrapped around a piece of metal as I was going up an underground escalator. One word, Isadora, raced through my brain and I tore off the scarf in an instant, grateful to be alive. The thing that made Isadora Duncan's death in 1927 at age 49 even sadder is that she had, prior to her last moment, seemed so grateful to be alive. Isadora Duncan, born in San Francisco in 1878, discovered, like many a local girl, that she was insufficiently appreciated in her own country. Undaunted, she took the dances that she had interpreted from classical Greek art and brought them to Budapest, where, in 1903, she was the toast of the town at age 25. She met with an equally feverish response in Berlin the following year. A triumphant engagement in London followed, and by the time she showed New York City audiences what she could do in 1908, her reputation had preceded her and she became, at age 30, a household name across the country that had ignored her five years earlier. For the next 19 years, Duncan WAS modern dance personified. She toured; she established modern dance schools in Berlin, London, Paris, and Moscow; she was always surrounded by men, and she even married some of them. There was no better casting choice for the charismatic Isadora than the charismatic Vanessa Redgrave. You can see why Duncan was the darling of her era; like other darlings of other eras, she brought life into every room she entered. There was much that was tragic in Isadora's life, including the drowning of her two beautiful children in her presence. Under Karel Reisz's brilliant direction, Redgrave reveals the griefs and joys of the barefoot artist as a living, breathing woman, rather than as an ethereal, unearthly legend in her time. James Fox is British actor/producer/designer Gordon Craig (1872– 1966), one of Duncan's many lovers, and Ivan Tchenko is Russian poet Sergei Essenin (1895–1925), who married Duncan, left her to marry Leo Tolstoy's granddaughter, and later killed himself. Based on My Life (Duncan's autobiography) and on Isadora Duncan, An Intimate Portrait by Sewell Stokes, Isadora succeeds in capturing the riveting personality of a passionate woman who first made her mark on the dance world of 1903 and whose influence has been felt ever since. And, unlike many Hollywood biographies in which ALL celebrities seem to lead interchangeable lives, Isadora shows how irreplaceably unique Duncan really was and how impossible it is to imagine the 20th century without her. AKA: The Loves of Isadora.

1968 138m/C GB Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards Jr., James Fox, Ivan Tchenko, John Fraser, Bessie Love, Cynthia Harris, Libby Glenn, Tony Vogel, Wallace Eaton, John Quentin, Nicholas Pennell, Ronnie Gilbert, Alan Gifford, Christian Duvaleix; D: Karel Reisz; W: Clive Exton; C: Larry Pizer; M: Maurice Jarre. Cannes Film Festival ‘69: Best Actress (Redgrave); National Society of Film Critics Awards ‘69: Best Actress (Redgrave); Nominations: Academy Awards ‘68: Best Actress (Redgrave). VHS

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