`Don't cut that pas de deux!' British-Soviet tension over Pavlova film
The retelling of a legend -- that of Anna Pavlova, the world's most famous ballerina -- is the cause of new East-West cultural tension. Feathers have been ruffled at the release in London of a joint Anglo-Soviet film ``Pavlova -- A Woman for All Time. . .'' Costing $27 million, taking five years to make, and starring Galina Beliaeva and James Fox, the film premi`ered March 10 at a gala fund-raising evening in London attended by the Duchess of Gloucester.Skip to next paragraph
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It will arrive in US movie houses in the late summer.
But instead of smoothly bourr'eeing across the British silver screen in a cloud of swan's-down, this pas de deux of two countries is the center of controversy.
The British partner, Poseidon Productions, which put up $5 million, is being condemned by the Soviet side (which put up $22 million) for showing a shortened version here.
A few days before the London opening, the Western version's very existence was denounced in the Soviet Union: The original Soviet version runs for almost 3 hours, compared with 2 hours and 12 minutes for the trimmed British version.
Emil Lotianou, the Soviet director of the film, told Westerners in Moscow that this violated an Anglo-Soviet agreement that ``specifically and authoritatively states that the film is to be made in one single version for all world sales.''
Mr. Lotianou said the film had been cut ``with insensitive scissors,'' making it a ``travesty,'' and he appealed to British audiences to have the original restored.
Neither Lotianou nor the Soviet performers appeared at the London gala in the Dominion Theatre despite previous announcements that they would attend.
``Pavlova'' in the Russian version has been showing for the last six months, and is said to have played to 8 million people in the Soviet Union.
Responding to charges of heavy-handed snipping, the executive producer of the joint production, London-based Greek-Cypriot Frixos Constantine said cuts had been made in agreement with the Soviet supervisory representatives because Western tastes were unaccustomed to the lengthy sagas favored in the Soviet Union.
The film I saw here shows little about Pavlova's character or personal life. Instead it tends to be a fragmented, incomplete record of her major triumphs. I asked Mr. Constantine why at a press viewing four days before the London opening, before Lotianou had spoken out.
``I had to decide whether to make a very long documentary and include every event in her life,'' he said, ``or whether to make a film that appeals to the general public and retains the mystery of the legend. . . .
``Her name was known in every corner of the globe, even by people who never saw her dance . . . my mother, a peasant in a tiny village in Cyprus, with very little knowledge of the outside world, knew Pavlova's name when I told her about the film.''
He made no mention of two versions.
The London ``Pavlova'' is a collection of travel-brochure landscapes, magnificent costumes, and authentic, lavish sets. Since she traveled and danced around the world in the early 1900s, the cast and crew of about 120 people found themselves on location in England, France, Germany, Mexico, Cuba, and the United States after making early scenes amid the pastel-shaded buildings and snowy streets of St. Petersburg (now Leningrad).
The actual filming was not without challenges.