In this exceedingly intelligent, visually arresting biopic, viewers get a glimpse into the remarkable life of Loïe Fuller, an American dancer who became a sensation in Europe in the early 20th century-only to be swept aside just as quickly when a greater talent emerged on the scene.
Making her feature debut, filmmaker Stéphanie Di Giusto explores how Fuller (played by musician and actress Soko) escaped the Midwest to transform herself, first by pursuing acting but then developing into a celebrated avant-garde dancer in New York, eventually making her way to the prestigious Paris Opera. Fuller's influential Serpentine dance routine cemented her legend, but soon she faced stiff competition from a rising star named Isadora Duncan (a luminous Lily-Rose Depp).
The Dancer is a meditation on the creative process-how a dancer's insecurities can feed into her innovations, establishing her name but also tying her to a movement that may be short-lived. Soko's restless, raw performance is all the more heartbreaking for how, in Duncan, Fuller saw the personification of the more beautiful, gifted artist she wanted to see in herself.