The 1977 movie stars world-famous ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev in the title role. It’s a visually stunning biopic of the doomed Italian lover of the silent movie era. Valentino who went from poor Italian immigrant who went from working as a gigalo in New York to become one of early cinema’s first celebrities.
Valentino opens with actual footage of the funeral procession at time which cuts to the star lying in state with the press and fans hysterical at his death from appendicitis at only 31 in 1926. The narrative device of journalists seeking salacious angles on stories of the great lover from whose who knew ,worked and loved him all told in flashback feeds into the lavish theatrical nature of this Hollywood production.
The casting of Rudolph Nureyev in the lead may at first glance be problematic but fits perfectly into the exaggerated world that film exists in and it’s a performance that rewards more after multiple viewings.
The melodramatic supporting performances from a cast which includes Felicity Kendal as a devoted production assistant who propels Valentino’s to fame. Valentino also includes memorable roles from Michelle Phillips Natasha, a scene stealing Leslie Caron, Carol Kane and Seymour Cassel.
Valentino is a visually rich movie with each frame lovingly framed by Russell and his DP Peter Suschitzky their style excels in the giant set pieces in dance halls or the boxing match where Rudolph fights Peter Vaughn’s journalist.
These sequences photographed by Ken are masterfully choreographed which harken back to the directors previous work in The Devil’s and Tommy even though he didn’t think much of the end result its hard to believe Valentino with its costly period settings and costumes was made on a meager $5 million production budget which was spent wisely and well in bringing the Roaring 1920s to life.
This disc comes packed with bonus materials which includes archival interview footage with Nureyev, audio with Lynn Seymour along with a refreshing interview with Dudley Sutton who previously in other Russell productions in Valentino he plays Willie the wanker in the mad prison Music Lovers sequence where the icon was held on bigamy charges.
The film previously unavailable on blu ray also includes newsreel footage documenting Valentino’s funeral where the streets of New York are lined with mourners,a very informative Tim Lucas audio commentary, in conversation with Ken Russell and Derek Malcolm, trailers/TV spots and an illustrated booklet which round out this full dual format package.
4 / 5
Dir: Ken Russell
Scr: Ken Russell, Mardik Martin
Cast: Rudolph Nureyev, Leslie Caron, Michelle Phillips, Carol Kane, Felicity Kendal, Seymour Cassel
Prod: Irwin Winkler, Bob Chartoff
Dop: Peter Suschitzky
Music: Ferde Grofe, Stanley Black
Runtime: 128 mins
Valentino is available now.