Isadora. 1968. Great Britain. Directed by Karel Reisz. Screenplay by Melvyn Bragg, Clive Exton, based on the book by Isadora Duncan. With Vanessa Redgrave, John Fraser. 35mm. 131 min.
In his magisterial essay “Dancing in Films,” Lincoln Kirstein evinced a deep skepticism about the translation of the former art form into the latter. Yet he would ultimately grant a few exceptions. Kirstein was so impressed, for instance, by Vanessa Redgrave’s performance in Karel Reisz’s Isadora Duncan biopic that he was moved to submit a letter to the editor of Life in response to their review of the picture. “Vanessa Redgrave,” he wrote, “dances absolutely gloriously. You have no idea what this means to one in love with dancing. Whether Vanessa dances exactly as Isadora danced is impossible to say (I heard one great dancer say that she danced better, but Isadora was never popular with Russian teachers). Vanessa’s dancing breathes the effect Duncan had on the world. Not alone is she physically glorious, but she moves with a virtuosity, freedom, largeness of gesture and pathos that has not been seen in free dance since Martha Graham was a girl.... Redgrave’s choreographer, Litz Pisk, understood the essence of Isadora’s movement, and reconstructed it as an archaeologist might have restored the Pergamon Altar.” Print courtesy of the Cinémathèque Française.