"Frankly, I don't see why everybody is so up in arms about the quality of this movie. I, for one, don't need to preface my review with a disclaimer that only its dance sequences can be enjoyed. I happen to think that it's a pretty excellent cinematographic work overall. Let me elaborate.The camera work here is among the most original and clever out there. It's incredibly dynamic and energetic, offering unusual perspectives, delivering great close-ups, and skillfully capturing the sweeping wide spaces. An unusually large amount of footage is devoted to the city landscapes of St. Petersburg - a rarity in American flicks on Russian themes. It's all the more jarring, however, that despite attempts to ensure authenticity of the setting, at least the first couple of car rides seem to have been done in a stationary vehicle and plastered rather crudely against the city background. But this is a forgivable and almost charming flaw, considering the film's limited budget and the release year of 1985.The film is a paradox of sorts, showcasing interesting performances from Rossellini and Hines, two actors who have since been totally under-appreciated. There's good chemistry between the impressionable and high-strung duet of Darya and Raymond. Jerzy Skolimovski (Colonel Chaiko) is the classical cunning villain with a Slavic flare. Baryshnikov himself seems a bit rigid and somewhat formulaic as Nikolay Rodchenko. That is when he's not dancing, of course. For when he dances, he unleashes all imaginable and unimaginable potential.Obviously, the story line is sketched out in broad, exaggerated strokes. But I bet the filmmakers actually expected the overall theatricality to be taken with a grain of salt. Besides, the subject matter discussed wasn't keen on subtleties. The events depicted were behind-the-scenes operations all right, but they were as blunt and theatrically bizarre as can be. And as for those who think the circumstances and emotions of the dissidence and emigration (or defection in this case) experience are overblown - brush up on mid-20th century history and get a grip on things. Not only had the Big Brother's machinery of state control and suppression been well oiled for decades in the Soviet Union and its satellites, but the shadow of this absurd, merciless beast hangs over many of those nations still. Folks, the fictionalized account of Nikolay Rodchenko is merely a _slightly_ glamorized and dramatized version of real life experience of countless victims of the era.The scenes of Nikolay and Darya fleeing through the deserted streets of Leningrad and the subsequent humiliation they experience in front of the American embassy send chills down my spine every time I watch the movie. That threat and that danger are very real to me even though my emigration experience in the 1990s was simply peachy in retrospect and comparison. Just as disturbing and sobering, by the way, is Rodchenko's reception by the Americans and the so-called international community inside the gates. He to them is but a nimble exotic specimen...Anyhow, let me dismount my high horse and reiterate, seconding the earlier reviews, that "White Nights" features superb, matchless dancing; and, to miss it is a deathly sin. Well, almost... There are essentially four dance highlights in the movie. Choreography is mainly by Baryshnikov, Hines, and, very importantly, Twyla Tharp. Baryshnikov's duet with Florence Faure in the opening credits is bound to leave your breathless. It is sheer perfection - immensely inventive and impeccably executed. The second instance when you'll forget that you could blink and breathe is during the 11 rubles for 11 pirouettes number. He does it with a godly effortlessness. Hines' and Baryshnikov's dance studio number is fascinating to watch. And, then... Then, there's Mikhail's solo to Vysotsky's tape on the stage of the Kirov theatre. Its beauty is literally painful and words can never describe it.If you haven't seen "White Nights" or have seen it only once, you're denying yourself an unearthly pleasure. And you can snicker at my high-flown sighs and exclamations all you want :)"
Ver solid , good film .
Vlad | russianwriter.net | 09/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don't tell me , that this is for dancing funs only ! I use to be professional break dancer , enjoied the exellent " dance " parts in the film ... but I watched it for the story , not the intertainment !
Michail Barishnikov's character is a " deserter " from Russia . He is on the flight to Europe and after big mechanical problems during the flight , the plane had to land in USSR . He is in panic ... and later we understand , why ! KGB wanted to make example out of him , so others will not follow ...
Put on top of it exellent scenaries of Leningrad , 3rd most beatifull city in Europe ... I was lucky to be born there , and I lived there too , for most of my life .
And it is not only about the plot in this movie - to set yourself free ... from russian KGB , from the past... If you don't speak Russian , you don't know the meaning of the song by Vladimir Visotskiy ... Let me go my horses ... Let me go ... set me free ..! The song , which became a grave monument for one of the greatest ,honest russian singers and actors ... he never surrended . But he still alive in his work... in our harts ."
alenchik | 06/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Baryshnikov does eleven pirouettes straight. What more can you ask for? Anyway, the movie was very good. It was a dark, communist Soviet Union film, with a lot of tension. But most importantly, Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov were fantastic. It is superhuman what they can do."
Jonathan B. Rollins | sandy, utah United States | 06/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"the beauty,grace, and syncronozation of these two men dancing from such different backgrounds and styles was magnificent. The love, trust, and faith under such difficult situations was indescribable. The story with its action and psychological background kept me riveted to the screen (5 OR SIX TIMES OR MORE!) When do I order my dvd?!!!"
Enjoy the dance, and melodrama?
ggagnon | Longmeadow, MA | 06/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Taylor Hackford took the premise of juxtaposing two premiere dancers and their two differing styles and made a taut little melodrama that explores the theme of freedom of expression in art, relationships and politics. Is ballet more free than tap? Does Hines have an 'open' marriage with Isabella Rosselini in the film? And what about those Soviets, and the funders for dance companies in the west, controlling who does what? But to return to reality, freedom could also apply to the wonderfully fluid camera used to record the dance sequences. Enjoy the view of Roland Petit's "Le Jeune Homme et La Morte" and Baryshnikov's famous "pas de deux with a chair" (finally captured on film)as an almost participant, and the two self-choreographed studio sequences of Baryshnikov and Hines with a camera that moves as quickly over, below, and above the dancers as the dancers themselves. Having seen Baryshnikov live several times (once with the Kirov, then ABT, and from backstage wings once or twice), I had no problem guessing the outcome of that ruble/pirouette bet. So glory in the dance sequences and the views of two masters at work, and an enterprising and creative director with a political heart. (Who later did a similar romantic triangle in politicized setting with "Proof of Life".)
RE ACTING: Since Baryshnikov was playing elements of his past, it was not too big a stretch. (He scared his young daughter, Alexandra, when she viewed the airplane crash scene.) But the sequence where he visited the dance school and they had no idea who he was because the Soviets tried to make sure newer generations forgot, was a real worry at the time. Luckily, Baryshnikov's artistry lives on in several films/tapes so younger generations can see what the legend is all about. How many past performers/performances miss out that chance at a posterity other than words. Live is nice, but capture the great at least once on film/tape for future generations please.
Hines and the supporting cast had all acted much before, and again had no problem. Interesting comment about the foreign accents, Smolinowski is Polish I believe, and Helen Mirren (though of Russian extraction and able to speak the language) is English--and later the wife of director Hackford.
LOCATION: Portugal subbed for inside the Marynski Theatre. Finland for Hines' russian hometown and some exteriors. And stock footage of course for St. Petersburg. Wonderful editing with that on the drives through the city, and of course, in the dance sequences. Overall, smile at the plot, and enjoy the dance. "