• Film

Seen In Cannes: La Danseuse

Soko and Lily Rose Depp star in the true story of Loïe Fuller and Isadora Duncan, women whose dancing reverberates 100 years on. The fascinating and little known story of Loïe Fuller, a young woman who improbably left the wilds of the American frontier to become a dancer in turn-of-the-century New York and ultimately a star of the Paris opera, makes for a fascinating film story. It is well told in La Danseuse (The Dancer) by first-time French director Stephanie Di Giusto as the portrait of an artist as a young woman.

We meet young Loïe (Soko) as the daughter of a French prospector in a hard scrabble frontier town where she moonlights as a rodeo girl while at the same time trying to tend to her alcoholic miscreant of a father and nurture her own artistic aspirations. After her father's death she travels to Brooklyn, taken in by her dour, disapproving mother, a stalwart member of the temperance league. To the mother's chagrin the young free spirit pursues her creative impulses and an audition as an extra for a vaudeville show leads to her developing a unique dance act using a furling sheet. An encounter with a bohemian, ether-addicted French count leads to his involuntarily financing her trip to Paris where she is hired by a skeptical manager of the Folies Bergère.

Her avant-garde choreography, incorporating newfangled electric lighting and bordering on abstract painting, quickly captivates Belle Époque Paris and becomes renowned as a unique form of modern dance. In the country chateau where a patron has offered her refuge Fuller assembled a troupe of dancers whom she instructs in her innovative choreography, even as the strain of dancing takes a serious toll on her body. The arrival of a striking and supremely talented dancer from San Francisco – Isadora Duncan (Lily Rose Depp) – upsets the delicate balance of the dance troupe and of Loïe’s creative process as the two women waver between mutual admiration and competition.

The fact hat this is the true story about two iconoclastic women artists makes the film all the more poignant. La Danseuse has a definite female sensibility because of its director and cast (which also includes Melanie Thierry). It’s also easy to see how the story might have appealed to Soko (Stéphanie Sokolinski) an actress and singer know for having left home at 16 to strike put on her arts  (she has also been a media fixture here for her relationship with Kristen Stewart). As for Lily Rose Depp she displays a sensual appeal and raw charisma that bodes well for her budding career in the family business.