Isadora Duncan was another self-taught primitive whose art was often regarded as a joke, and Isadora Duncan: The Biggest Dancer in the World gives the viewer ammunition to see her as a self-absorbed, hedonistic, loud and crass sham—except that she also clearly isn’t. As played by the brassy, unglamorous Vivian Pickles and with sympathetic narration by Sewell Stokes, who knew her, we understand Duncan as a courageous woman insisting on her freedom in a difficult life. It’s made partly difficult by her own excesses to be sure, for she’s at her most comfortable when kept by a married millionaire, but then we may ask: why must she keep a married millionaire happy in order to finance her dancing school and present her art to the masses? The answer: because life is hard when you don’t have a millionaire to keep happy. —Michael Brooke
British director Ken Russell started out training for a naval career, but after wartime RAF and merchant navy service he switched goals and went into ballet. Supplementing his dancing income as an actor and still photographer, Russell put together a handful of amateur films in the 50s before being hired as a staff director by the BBC. Russell made a name for himself (albeit a name not always spoken in reverence) during the first half of the ‘60s by directing a series of iconoclastic TV dramatizations of the lives of famous composers and dancers. And if he felt that the facts were getting in the way of his story, he’d make up his own — frequently bordering on the libelous. If he had any respect for the famous persons whose lives he probed, it was secondary to his fascination with revealing all warts and open wounds.
A film director since 1963, Russell burst into the international consciousness with 1969’s Women in Love, a hothouse version of the D.H. Lawrence novel. No director… read more
Life through a wide telescope. Wonderfully frenetic and kaleidoscopic survey of Duncan's life and career. The bumptious pace captures just the right balance between slapstick revisionism and tender pathos. Whilst the declamatory dialogue can grate elsewhere in Russell's work, the foghorn pronouncements of Duncan are carried along by the sheer bounce of the piece.