La danseuse Belgium, Czech Republic, France 2016 – 108min.
Born in the great American West of the nineteenth century, Mary Louise Fuller dreams of art and theater. But nothing hints that this farm girl is predestined to become the glory of Parisian Belle Epoque cabarets, much less that she will dance at the Paris Opera. Hidden under meters of silk, her arms extended with long wooden sticks, she becomes Loïe Fuller, reinventing her body on stage to the delight of the audience. Although the physical effort nearly breaks her back and the powerful lights burn her eyes, she continues to perfect her dance. But then she meet Isadora Duncan, a prodigy eager for glory, who precipitates the fall of this icon of the early 20th century.
An ambitious, risky project for Stéphanie Di Giusto, who sets her debut in the varied landscapes of the American wilds and Parisian theaters, the director has made a slick biopic, staged in the purest tradition of the genre as a romantic, tragic and dramatic fresco. The choice of Soko for the lead is perfect: the singer/actress brings all the enthusiasm, energy and passion needed for Loïe Fuller, a fascinating artist, as well as Lily-Rose Depp (daughter-of) as a co-star. Di Giusto also adds enough oddness and sensitivity to move the film off the beaten track, especially when the script rewrites history by inventing a heterosexual love interest (Gaspard Ulliel*) while minimizing Fuller’s assumed homosexuality. Di Giusto has taken great care in making this movie, which nevertheless lacks a personality as strong as that of her subject.