Director Ken Russell seems less interested in nostalgia and early Hollywood days than in trying to find the essence of a certain charisma that can be turned into a sort of world sex symbol. Casting of Kirov defector ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev as Valentino works despite the elimination of the Latino darkness and smoldering looks.
Nureyev’s pic bow is impressive as he manages to avoid being ridiculous in certain scenes by sheer grace and aplomb. And using him also excuses the film a slavish need to hue to Valentino’s factual life. Yet Russell has now and then opted for the lyric, even the outrageous.
Early part of the pic does not quite come alive but with the start of his film career it perks up for some bravura scenes that capture the strength, vulnerability and appeal of this tragic figure.