Picks and Pans Review: Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse
There are no 'if onlys' in my life," says Suzanne Farrell at the end of this study of her brilliant career as a ballerina (reprised in performance clips) and her complex bond with choreographer George Balanchine. If only this Oscar-nominated 1996 documentary, having its TV premiere on Great Performances' Dance in America, gave a detailed account of her life after Balanchine's death in 1983. Hip-replacement surgery in '87, an amazing comeback in '88—a lot happened to Farrell before she stepped away from the stage in '89 to instruct a new generation of dancers in the Balanchine tradition. Unfortunately, that part of the story doesn't fit the film's focus: Farrell as Balanchine's inspiration, loved one and disciple.
But it may be unfair to judge Elusive Muse as biography. Its true subject is the mutual dependence of an extraordinary performing talent, Farrell, and an irreplaceable creative genius, Balanchine. While insisting her relationship with Balanchine (over 40 years her senior) did not include sex, Farrell (now 51) bares conflicting emotions toward the legend who both nurtured and smothered her. Reduced to a supporting role is dancer Paul Mejia, whose 1969 marriage to Farrell (they recently divorced) led to a five-year breach between the ballerina and Balanchine. Note Mejia's glistening eyes as he recalls Farrell in a Balanchine ballet. In these lives, the art's the thing.
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