Five vunderful reasons to watch Valentino
(The other male full frontal Ken Russell scene. Rudolph Nureyev and Michelle Phillips, cultural icons of the 1970s in the silken flesh. (NSFW but so worth it!) This is the Russian version and the dialogue is "dubbed" Soviet Style ala the translator talking over the actors...)
When I was about seven, my Mum took Ballet classes for a few years and then made me take them. I resisted at first (I was very tall for my age so it felt awkward) but now greatly appreciate the experience. Mr. Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev was a household word and adored by Mum who sketched his handsome Tartar face in charcoal. Ken Russell's Valentino was thus on repeat in my house from the time I was seven till I was about eleven. I thought it was amazing. When I grew up and read that there were people, including Ken Russell himself who had thought it was a big mistake well... I was shocked! I don't begrudge Ken's choice in thinking it was a career misstep but here are my five reasons to why everyone should see Valentino at least once:
1. Nureyev: Easily one of the best looking men that ever lived and one of the most unique as well, he's never looked more beautiful. He's not an film actor but he's fun to watch. And let's give credit where it is due; no male Ballet dancer has approached Nureyev's talent and persona since. In Valentino one can see that he possessed a body without any tension and had the flexibility (and complexion) of a carefree two year old. Not bad for a dancer who started his professional training at 22!
2. Costumes: Shirley Ann "God" Russell is without equal and she is missed by the countless people she gracefully touched. The costumes in Valetino run the gamut of the 1920's and many look like Maxfield Parrish or Erte paintings come to life. Today's vintage fanatics are far too obsessed with the 50s and 60s. If you want the sublime, the detail, the melting decadence then you want the 1920s. And if you want the 20s or to learn about the fine art of costume design and vintage reproduction clothing then you have to watch Valentino as well as track Shirley's unparalleled life and career as a costumer and so much more.
(Shirley Russell must have loved the above carpet's colour scheme. Rudolph's tomb Russian cemetery in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois near Paris. Mosaic by Ezio Frigerio.)
3.Older kids interested in film history and dance can watch the film: watching films like Valentino which did have nudity and adult situations but were mostly tame, did not harm me growing up. In fact 90% of what children/teens are seeing on video games and music video is far more explicit and even worse-not artistic or creative in the slightest. Granted my parents were artists but if it is between Michelle Philips in a break away kaftan or Miley Cyrus in an ASDA SnM dress (or worse aka The Only Way is Essex) then you only have yourselves to blame Mums and Dads!
4.The 1920s as seen in the 70s: The 1950's, what with Happy Days, America Graffiti, Grease, Big Wednesday etc, seemed to be the decade that returned in the 70s but a closer look at many ads, clothing, art works, children's toys and even hair and makeup and it is evident that the 20s was also a very strong cultural influence. No film encapsulates the decadence of the 20s as seen via the lush over-abundance of 70s RussellVision, like Valentino.
(Above: A fresh scent of 1920s whimsy in the 1970s, The Barbie Perfume Maker)
5. Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky's lush work has not lost an ounce of lustre in over thirty years. Many films from that period look mottled and dingy but Valentino still has that same radiance as the first day I saw it and decided that a cloche hat and Theda Bara eyes were the keys to eternal stardom whilst getting my pics snapped while in heated missionary position by those pesky newshounds!