A remarkable film by any standards, Isadora is based on two works: My Life by Isadora Duncan (a dancer in the 1920s who forever changed people’s ideas of ballet with her nude, semi-nude and pro-Soviet dance projects – as well as her attitudes on lifestyle and free love) and An Intimate Portrait by Sewell Stokes.
It is a wonderfully offbeat biography movie as witnessed through the eyes and imagination of its extraordinary protagonist. The film is as eccentric as its subject.
The film – with flashbacks and flashforwards – is framed by Isadora (in blowsy, boozy middle age) dictating her reminiscences to Stokes (called Roger in the film) in a hotel room in Nice and finished with her ghastly death shortly afterwards.
As she struts around dispensing tired epigrams, the film traces her life and her three lovers: stage designer Gordon Craig (James Fox); millionaire sewing machine heir Paris Singer (Jason Robards); and Russian poet Sergei Essenin (Ivan Tchenko).
By each of the first two, Isadora has a child, but they die in an absurd car accident. Finally, in macabre mockery, so does she.
While the film may be total confusion and a possible bore to those who prefer their movie narratives completely coherent and proceeding in a relatively straightforward manner from one scene to another, Isadora is certainly a connoisseur’s piece to be relished by those desirous of something excitingly original and stylish.
And Vanessa Redgrave is positively stunning in the title role.
Directed by Karel Reisz, Isadora impresses for both its visual brilliance and its thoroughly inspired performances from Robards and Fox as her lovers, and Bessie Love as Isadora’s mother.
The French-English co-production was retitled for its American release as The Loves of Isadora.
Ivan Tchenko (Zvonimir Crnko)