Loie Fuller (Soko) is a young American woman, who travels to Paris at the turn of the 20th century, to pursue her unique dance vision. After demanding an audition from the initially sceptical director of the Folies-Bergere, Edouard Marchand (Francois Damiens) she eventually becomes the toast of Fin-de-Siecle Paris, establishing a new kind of dance theatre, and patenting designs and machinery.
Based on the book by Giovanni Lista, the story has been moulded by director Stephanie Di Giusto into a lavish and deeply satisfying piece of cinema.
French singer and actress Soko is outstanding in the eponymous role. She is able to evoke Loie’s larger-than-life persona along with her quiet, self-deprecating personality. Joining her on screen for the last section of the story is Lily-Rose Depp as the egotistical, brilliant and unpleasant, young Isadora Duncan, whose career began under Loie’s mentorship. Strong performances too, are delivered by Melanie Thierry as friend and collegue Gabrielle Bloch, and Gaspard Ulliel as patron and erstwhile lover, Le Comte d’Orsay.
Di Giusto’s director never falters, and she is aided in this task by Benoit Debie’s faultless cinematography. Depth is given to the work through the use of poetic, unexpected close-ups. Carlos Conti’s superb production design moves from white-trash American west, to temperance-union New York to the Folies-Bergere at its height.
For anyone interested in the history of theatre or dance, this film is a must. It is, in essence, a classic bio-pic, and yet manages to be much more, without faltering from the expectations of the genre. The self-doubting tortured mind of the artist; the complex ways in which we form relationships; the sacrifices we choose in order to pursue a passion: all are layered into this portrait of an extraordinary woman and an extraordinary time.
This is tense, passionate and riveting cinema.
Check out the official site here.
The Dancer opens on September 28th at Palace Nova Cinema.