Down in adoration falling, THE DANCER is an exquisite film of form, style, grace and the toil, turmoil and torment that goes with being an artist and innovator.
THE DANCER begins incongruously in the wilds of North America, where Loie Fuller and her father live in a frontier town tailing the dying days of the 19th century gold rush.
Dad drunkenly boasts about his diggings along with his faith in his daughter’s artistic destiny. She is a reader of plays, an aspiring Shakespearian, and she gets a taste of tragedy quick smart. He eats lead over his gold aggrandisement and she is forced to eat crow in New York where her mother takes her into her Temperance mission.
Stultified by the uber sober wowserism of her mother, – books, booze, dance are anathema- Loie sails to Paris where her art is appreciated from the Follies Bergere to the Paris Opera.
Fuller, aptly named as she is of a fuller figure, not elfin or tiny like traditional tutu fodder, is fanatical about her dance, which is more a moving installation, pushing herself to the far flung extremities of physical fatigue. The more she dances, the more she uses herself up. On top of the physical effort, the stage lights damage her eyes. And she constantly works out on a machine to strengthen her arm muscles.
For this pioneering free form force of nature, her obsession with stage craft was a both the summit of her success and the pit of her downfall.
Directed with gusto, grace and grit by Stephanie Di Giusto, THE DANCER is a striking feature film debut, gorgeous in its composition and cinematography, profoundly intriguing in its performances.
Soko stars as the fantastically focused Fuller, It’s a sock it to ya performance, bold, brave and beguiling.
Gaspard Ulliel is superb as the Laudanum laced lounge lizard, Le Compte Louis D’Orsay, who becomes Loie’s ally in her aspirations, opening doors and making connections.
Mélanie Thierry is heart breaking as Gabrielle, Loie’s adoring aid, whose adoration and duty is taken for granted, affection sacrificed on the altar of art.
Amanda Plummer transcends caricature as Loie’s estranged mother, Lili, giving definition to the flint that has replaced soft maternal instinct.
Lily-Rose Depp is iridescent as the young Isadora Duncan, who has come to learn from Loie., and the redoubtable, ever reliable François Damiens, plays Marchand, the head of the Folies Bergère.