THE WHITE CROW—the story of Rudolf Nureyev‘s student years in Leningrad, his first trip to Paris and performances at Palais Garnier, and his defection at La Bourget airport—was directed by and co-stars Ralph Fiennes, who wrote a filmmaker’s letter for the Landmark about the experience:

“Although I had no great interest in ballet and I didn’t know much about Nureyev, I was gripped by the story of his early life. His youth in Ufa in central Russia in the 1940s, his student years studying dance in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and then culminating in his decision to defect to the West in 1961. That story got under my skin… and sat with me as a great possibility for a film. I didn’t really see myself directing it. It was just the idea. It’s so dramatic and is about so many things. It has an interior personal dynamic, the drive to realize himself and the ruthlessness that goes with it. It’s also within the context of the ideological divide between East and West at the height of the Cold War. It was that character, that will of Nureyev’s that made him realize who he was—an artist that really grabbed me.

David Hare was our ideal writer. David writes what I call ‘high-definition,’ provocative characters who have strong contrasting elements that are challenging for an audience. He writes those big spirits and he writes them brilliantly. Also, David is known for writing things that have a strong political and social context. He has an instinctive understanding of the political climate in our story. I feel I have a good connection with David. We batted many ideas back and forth, feeling the temperature and the tone and the shifts of what we wanted to do. It was very inspiring to sit with him and wrangle the challenges of structure and drama. We asked ourselves, ‘What was the essential story we were trying to tell?’ We were clear this was the story of young Rudolf’s defection. I first thought it should be linear. What emerged in our discussion was the three time frame structure: Paris 1961, the Leningrad years from 1955 to 1961, and the childhood years in the late ‘40s. These time frames interweave giving us a portrait of the evolution of this boy and leading us to a point at La Bourget in June ’61. The timeframes come together at this point.

“We employed two casting directors in Russia to do a big sweep which ended up with four or five candidates, and I identified this young Ukrainian dancer, Oleg Ivenko, from the Tartar State Ballet company. I felt he had a latent acting ability and he is a strong ballet dancer who has a physical proximity to Nureyev. When I did the screen tests, I could see that Oleg picked up immediately on direction. If I demonstrated something, he got it very quickly. A couple of times I would say ‘No, this is what I want’ and I would demonstrate an attitude or a feeling and he very quickly got it. There was something about the way he sat in front of the camera, some ‘X factor’ that made me think ‘That could be Rudi.’ I pushed him to understand the best screen acting is rooted in being really present and in the moment. You’re reacting and listening, so the thing to get him to feel is: Don’t show me you’re angry or shy or irritated or whatever; just feel it, be it. Have it inside. If you really have it or are close to having it, it will reveal itself. It sounds quite simple, but it’s hard to be really present and the beauty of his work is that he is very present. It’s an uncluttered performance. He was very generous and allowed me to steer him a bit, but he has a real pure screen acting instinct.” — Ralph Fiennes

The film is based on Nureyev: The Life, by Julie Kavanaugh, who uncovered the importance of Teja Kremke, the East German dancer who triggered Nureyev’s move to the West.


Now playing

Arclight Hollywood

6360 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.


10850 Pico Boulevard, West Los Angeles.

From top: Oleg Ivenko and Ralph Fiennes on set, The White Crow; Fiennes (left) as ballet master Alexander Pushkin, with Ivenko as Rudolf Nureyev (center); Ivenko, with Louis Hofmann as Teja Kremke; Ivenko, in Paris with Adèle Exarchopoulos as Clara Saint; Ivenko in Paris. Images courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.


“Louis Fratino deeply intimate paintings, often featuring lovers, family, friends, and the artist himself, present the human figure as a site of vast emotive expression.”*

The artist’s sensual new work—which recalls a mood of Provincetown and Fire Island in the mid-twentieth century—is now on view at Sikkema Jenkins.


Through May 24.

Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

530 West 22nd Street, New York City.

See ” ‘Boys Do it Better’: The Paintings of Louis Fratino, by Christopher Alessandrini.

Louis Fratino, oil on canvas, from top: Bushwick, 2019, oil on canvas; Me and Ray, 2018; Tom, 2019; Me, 2019; Invitation, 2019; Yellow Sleeper, 2019; Kissing Couple, 2019. Images courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co.


The exhibition GORDON PARKS—THE NEW TIDE, EARLY WORK 1940–1950G looks at his mid-century work from the time when “images began to proliferate in picture magazines and on television,” providing an “engaging study of the competing purposes and meanings” of his commissions—journalistic, governmental, industrial, and fashion.*


Through June 9.

Cleveland Museum of Art

11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland.

Gordon Parks, gelatin silver prints, from top: Self-Portrait, 1941; Washington, D.C. Government charwoman, [Ella Watson],1942; Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, 1950; Paris Fashions, 1949. Images courtesy and © the Gordon Parks Foundation.


Cornelia Hediger‘s DOPPELGÄNGER is now on view in Philadelphia.

“The DOPPELGÄNGER series of photographs are pictorial narratives that explore internal human emotions, notions of the uncanny, the subconscious/conscious mind, the ego and the alter ego. The narrative structure itself is based upon and utilizes the concept of the Doppelgänger—specifically as understood within Germanic literature: a ghostly double or apparition of a living person, widely assumed to be sinister and a harbinger of bad luck, but also highly ambiguous, thus presenting a psychological dilemma. The central characters are enacted by the artist herself within claustrophobic and timeless spaces.

“The structural device of the tableaux-vivant is used to carefully choreograph multiple individual, full-frame photographs into single artworks, using a grid system that also serves to maintain the photographic integrity of each photograph. Most of the artworks are constructed with six photographs, but as the series has progressed they have developed in complexity, incorporating up to twelve.” — Cornelia Hediger


Through June 15.

Pentimenti Gallery

145 North Second Street, Philadelphia.

Cornelia Hediger, digital C-prints, from top: Doppelgänger 06.21.07, 2007; Doppelgänger 05.18.09, 2009; Doppelgänger 08.02.10, 2010; Doppelgänger 11.26.09, 2009; Doppelgänger 07.20.07, 2007; Doppelgänger 01.22.09, 2009; Doppelgänger 10.03.08, 2008; Doppelgänger 04.21.11, 2011; Doppelgänger 12.03.07, 2007. Images courtesy of the artist and Pentimenti Gallery.


CITIES OF LAST THINGS—the fifth feature by director Ho Wi Ding—follows a haunted police detective through a reverse-narrative spiral. Reminiscent of the gorgeous neon-and-noir dreamscapes cinematographer Christopher Doyle created for Wong Kar-Wai, the Taipei triptych opens with a suicide in the year 2056, then works its way back to 2019 and the 1990s.

Jack Kao (61 years old), Lee Hong Chi (29), and young Hsieh Chang Ying play Zhang Dong Ling over the course of three crucial nights in the character’s life. The film was shot in 35mm for a wonderfully grainy sheen—Jean Louis Vialard was the director of photography. This award-winning Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival selection screens Monday night in Los Angeles.


Monday, May 6, at 6:30 pm.

Regal L.A. Live Cinemas

1000 West Olympic Avenue, downtown Los Angeles.

From top: Louise Grinberg and Lee Hong Chi in Cities of Last Things; Jack Kao; Ding Ning (center right); Lee (right); Grinberg. Images courtesy the filmmaker and LAAPFF.