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Case Number 19420: Small Claims Court

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Margot / The Royal Ballet

BFS Video // 2009 // 213 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // August 5th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum wants to be a forty year-old dame who can dance when he grows up.

The Charge

The glamorous, turbulent life of Britain's international ballet superstar.

The Case

Margot was created as a television film for the BBC as part of a three part series on "women we love." There certainly is no doubt why they would pick this particular subject for adoration, since she had an amazing life. It tells the almost unbelievable true story of prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn (Anne-Marie Duff, The Last Station), a woman who at forty reinvigorated her fame by dancing better than she ever had when she was half that age. This never happens to dancers, who usually retire well before thirty, but Margot did have some extreme inspiration along the way. First up, she was given a new partner named Rudolph Nureyev (Michiel Huisman, The Young Victoria). He was a gay Russian immigrant, but somehow managed to have a rather torrid affair with Dame Margot. They both managed to reinvent dance with an equal emphasis on male and female roles, and a sense of passion that was readable from the highest balconies. Meanwhile Margot's rather wild husband is a Panamanian diplomat (Con O'Neill, Telstar: The Joe Meek Story) who has just been shot, and so she needs to support him financially. What's a girl to do? And so Margot danced her ass off well into her sixties, and became the stuff legends are made of.

The film was obviously made on a budget, and it never quite captures the magic of dance. But the performances are superior, and the story is strong enough to captivate despite any limitations. Anne-Marie Duff is indeed forty, and she appears to be as on top of her game as the ballerina she is playing. She can't dance, but she certainly understands how to communicate to an audience the passions of a woman who does. Both Michiel Huisman and Con O'Neill give excellent support, and we even get a glimpse of legendary British actor Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius) for good measure. The film gives us all the high points of Margot Fonteyn, and schools us on why we should love her. She lived a picture-perfect life for the public and press, but behind the scenes she had a wild, scandalous ride that made her fascinating.

The widescreen transfer is just fine without any hiccups or complaints from me. There's a nice Dolby Digital three channel mix which concentrates itself in the front speakers to make it sound more stereo. There's not much special until you get to a very cool extra. The DVD itself is bare bones, but it does come with a marvelous bonus disc. On the second DVD is over two hours of the real Margot Fonteyn dancing in a bunch of filmed performances, released in 1960 as The Royal Ballet. You could not ask for a better supplement, because it gives us exactly what we need to see after watching the film. We get to see the real Margot at 40 years old dancing in selections from Swan Lake, Firebird, and Ondine. The only pity is that her male partner in these is Michael Somes, but it's a rare glimpse at why Margot was a legend. She easily eclipses anybody around her.

The film is a solid biopic of a remarkable woman; you have to give Anne-Marie Duff a standing ovation and a huge bouquet of roses for taking on the role with so much nerve and pluck. The DVD is a real joy when you consider not only do you get a pretty nifty feature, but also a remarkable piece of history in getting to see Margot Fonteyn dance some of her signature roles. If you're a dance fan then this is one set that is easily a must-own. And for anybody who may one day turn forty, this is perfect inspiration that there may be some late blooms in there as well.

The Verdict

Not guilty of betraying a woman we all love. Margot dances along nicely, and gives me hope for turning forty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 94

Perp Profile

Studio: BFS Video
Video Formats:
• 1.77:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 213 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Biographical
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus Film


• IMDb: Margot
• IMDb: The Royal Ballet

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