Figure skating last reached the big screen in the 2007 comedy “Blades of Glory”. Starring Jon Heder and Will Ferrell it painted the world of competitive figure skating as one of ridiculous costumes, spiteful rivalry and ludicrous people. Figure skating was…naff and worthy of ridicule.
John Curry was a deeply troubled man. Haunted by both his father’s dark presence in life and by his even darker death, Curry was never fully able to escape him. He was also prone to deep depressions that drove him to fantasize about taking his own life. Throw in the pressure he faced as an open and openly gay man in the world of sport and it is little wonder that he said “Whatever greatness I possess there are demons of equal value.”
Director James Erskine has made a documentary that paints Curry as more than just a figure skater. He is presented as a revolutionary figure in his sport as a result of his refusal to perform as men had always done, as a creative force of nature who took professional ice dancing into the realm of high art and as a symbol of the evolution of the world of gay men…from the closet to the streets and then to figure of suspicion and fear at the height of the AIDS crisis.
Throughout all of this Erskine hypnotises his audience with footage of Curry on the ice where his grace, elegance, athleticism and power are impossible to ignore. Impossible to ignore too are the eyes of John Curry, even when being presented with an Olympic gold medal or receiving a standing ovation they are filled with fear and sadness. This was a remarkable life which soared to heights few are capable of but the lows were even more unimaginable.
Curry was poetry in motion and emotion. Erskine has done a magnificent job of showing us the heart and soul of a complex character.