The Dancer – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

September 27, 2017 by Roz Tarszisz
Read on for article

When her father is killed, farm girl Loie Fuller (Soko) makes her way to New York where her mother Lili (Amanda Plummer) is living a nun-like existence with female prohibitionists.

Loie is shy and awkward but when her mother cuts off her matted hair, it is the symbolic beginning of Loie’s own liberation.

From a surviving photograph of the real Loie Fuller, director and writer Stephanie di Guisto has fashioned the story of an American  – di Guisto makes her father French to suit the casting of Soko  –  who became the toast of Europe and danced at the Paris Opera.  Loie was described as “an icon of the Belle Epoque” and, as a true artiste, gave everything for her art.

Hidden behind many meters of white silk, her arms extended by long rods, Loie reinvents her solid body on stage, enthralling her audience by the images she conjures using lights and mirrors. She shuns the limelight and is only confident about her work, but not herself.  Her instinct for what will enhance her performance is uncanny and as she becomes successful,  increases her demand for stage lighting. taking more physical risks.

Louis (Gaspard Ulliel,) a decadent patron she met in New York, had suggested that she would succeed in Paris and she does. Their strange relationship changes over time with Loie living in his manor house and eventually supporting him.  Her revolutionary approach to dance attracts dancers who she teachers to move in a free and modern way. When the young and beautiful Isadora Duncan (Lily-Rose Depp) turns up, Louis foretells that Isadora will break her heart.

It’s obvious that Isadora is after something but Loie doesn’t heed the warnings of those who care about her such as Gabrielle (Melanie Thierry).

She’s the dancer” says Loie.

That may have been true, but Loie was the visionary.

Soko’s performance is mesmerizing and Ulliel is fascinating as the jaded Louis. Depp looks good and moves well but I felt she was more decorative than convincing.  It’s deliciously French and often oblique but the moody lighting suits the evocation of the era in every way. Dark, strange and beautiful.

4/5  112 mins  Rated M  Released 28 September

In French with subtitles

Stars Soko, Lily-Rose Depp, Gaspard Ulliel, Melanie Thierry, Francois Damiens

Directed by Stephanie di Giusto

Written by Stephanie di Giusto, Sarah Thibau with the collaboration of Thomas Bidegain

Freely adapted from the novel Loie Fuller, danseuse de la Belle Epoque by Giovannia Lista


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