by Del Harvey
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BBC’s excellent biopic of international ballet superstar Margot Fonteyn stars Anne-Marie Duff as the prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet. Director Otto Bathurst has called Anne-Marie Duff is a tremendously versatile actress and one of the best around. She certainly does impress as the penultimate ballet star, even though the lean and leggy Miss Duff never learned ballet.
The film’s story begins shortly before Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West from the Soviet Union in 1961. Margot Fonteyn was then on the verge of retirement, but the new and unexpected creative coupling with the vigorous young Russian dancer breathed new life into her temporarily flagging career. Some believe it also reinvigorated her as a woman, despite the fact that Margot was married to Dr Roberto Arias, also known as Tito, a shady Panamanian diplomat and playboy.
For Miss Duff, the greatest challenge of all was to penetrate beneath the brittle, high-sheen veneer of Margot Fonteyn’s glamor. The world famous dancer remained, for many who knew her, an elusive and often inaccessible figure.
Although she began life as Peggy Hookham of Reigate, Margot Fonteyn became one of the world’s best ballet stars and inspired generations of dancers to come. Miss Duff does an admirable job of capturing the spirit and emotion of this evocative artist’s turbulent life.
Included with the film is a bonus disc, The Royal Ballet, featuring performances by Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes from the ballets Swan Lake, Firebird, and Ondine.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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