It’s a good month for fans of sexy Russian dancers: Hot on the heels of the Ralph Fiennes’ Rudolph Nureyev biopic The White Crow comes David and Jacqui Morris’ more prosaically titled documentary, Nureyev. Whereas Crow ended with his 1961 defection from the Soviet Union to the West, the Morris siblings cover Rudi’s life until his death in 1993. Taking the longer view allows them to reckon with just what a big celebrity he was at the time — he received ovations from the audience of The Dick Cavett Show, which was admittedly never a cross-section of the American public — and give a better sense of his significance during the Cold War.
Nureyev never suggests the defection was a bad thing, but it also strives to show there was a ripple effect that hurt other people. The Morrises also deal more frankly with Rudi’s queerness and eventual death from AIDS, and especially his relationship with fellow dancer Erik Bruhn. Not unlike the man himself, Nureyev is overflowing with style. New dance sequences are created to represent periods in Rudi’s life, although the frequent use of centuries-spanning quotations gets to be a bit much, including a popular internet misquote of Bob Dylan’s “Ballad in Plain D.” But what matters is the story, and Nureyev tells a good one.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.