American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
In February 2015, Ukrainian ballet superstar Sergei Polunin appeared in an emotionally raw music video for the huge Hozier hit “Take Me to Church.” The clip, which famed photographer David LaChapelle shot in Hawaii, featured Polunin dancing in a stripped-down space in ripped, nude tights, his sinewy body covered in the tattoos he usually has to hide with makeup to perform the classic roles.
The choreography revealed a conflicted dancer’s torment; the melody inspired a gifted artist to soar. And the fact that LaChapelle shot so much of the performance from low angles—with heavenly streaks of sunlight streaming through open windows—made Polunin’s leaps seem to last even longer. If you’d never seen or heard of him before this, you could never forget him afterward. His combination of explosive power and aerial prowess made the video go viral, and as of this writing it’s amassed nearly 16 million views.
But Polunin intended “Take Me to Church” to serve as his swan song, even though he was only 25. Having reached the heights of ballet at an astonishingly young age and realizing his heart no longer was in it, the media-hyped “bad boy” considered this shoot a farewell to the art form that brought him fame and acclaim.
Trouble is, the video made him even more popular. And that’s where documentary “Dancer” comes in: to explore the paradox of having it all and still not feeling satisfied.