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ISADORA DUNCAN: THE BIGGEST DANCER IN THE WORLD

UK, 1966 (MIFF 2000, Sensational Symphonies – The Unseen Ken Russell)

Director: Ken Russell

Russell portrays the flamboyant dancer as a self-indulgent exhibitionist and vulgarian intent on shocking the world with her self-consciously outrageous behaviour, promoting the image of a free-spirited artiste and ultimately a pathetic individual entrapped in her own myth-making. The film opens with a Citizen Kane-March Of Time style pastiche which offers a capsule history of Duncan's life culminating with her freakish death in 1927 by strangulation when her scarf was caught up by a car wheel. Within the year Melvyn Bragg, Russell's erstwhile writing collaborator on Women In Love (1969) and The Music Lovers (1971), contributed a scenario for director Karel Reisz's feature version starring Vanessa Redgrave in the title role.

"Isadora seemed to embody the best and worst of an artist. She had genuine talent, some mystical insight, but she was a bit bogus as well. She had that touch of vulgarity which I think people connected with, she negated the esoteric idea of Art because she couldn't help but give it her own humanity. And though she was usually drunk or shacked up with some ne'er-do-well she always survived. She was just a great person and that was her art. God knows what her dancing was like. Pretty terrible I imagine. But that doesn't matter. She effected and moved and meant a great deal to a lot of people. Everyone who saw or came into contact with her came away a bit different, even Mother Russia and Father Stalin."—Ken Russell

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