The Nureyev Nobody Knows, Young and Wild (Documentary)





A POINT comes in the afterlife of an artist when, for the time being, biography has pretty much done its work. The essential history is known; the ambience is broadly understood; the relationship between the life and the work has yielded its chief mysteries. Barring bombshells any future surprises are apt to be minor: not revelations, just minutiae.

To judge by the title, the 90-minute documentary “Nureyev: The Russian Years,” written and produced by the British filmmaker John Bridcut, would promise to fall squarely into the category of marginalia. After all, when Rudolf Nureyev, the young sensation of the Kirov Ballet, bolted from the clutches of the K.G.B. to asylum in Paris, he was all of 23. That was in 1961, and his glory years lay before him.

Even so, the prelude behind the Iron Curtain proves a mesmerizing subject. Between previously unknown film clips of the young Nureyev in full flight and fresh interviews with associates whose lives he touched or inadvertently destroyed, the material is of novelistic richness.

A BBC production in association with WNET in New York, “Nureyev: The Russian Years” receives its American premiere on the PBS series “Great Performances” on Wednesday. (Check local listings.) The BBC broadcast, with six extra minutes, follows on Sept. 29.


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