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The Ice King

by Michael  Cox
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Oct 10, 2019
The Ice King

What does it mean to be a success? The British figure skater

For John Curry, a British, gay man in a time period before it was legal to be gay, success meant achievement in artist. He wanted to dance and he wanted to incorporate balletic beauty into his every pose. He wanted to make movement into art. But his chronically depressed, suicidal father wanted him to be an athlete.

John was allowed to move with precision and grace as long as he moved "like a man."

So John took up an unusual sport, figure skating. It required incredible strength, and it called for poise, still it was undeniably beautiful and John brought his own unique quality to the sport — flair. Figure skating launched John into a world of athletic superstardom, and it took him to a place beyond his father's wildest expectations, a place where manliness and beauty collide.

In "The Ice King," the graceful documentary about John Curry's life, director James Erskine combines personal interviews, media footage, never-before-seen amateur video and live orchestrations to elegantly describe the life of a competitor and an artist.

Curry was the first figure skater from Great Britain to win the Olympic gold. He won the European, World, and Olympic titles in 1976, the first man to win all three titles in the same season. He also won the championships in his own country, giving him four major titles that year. He was the flag bearer at the Winter Olympics for Great Britain and he was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year. And he came out to the closet to the whole world.

In the 1970s, Curry was one of the few athletes who embraced his homosexuality publicly, and he went on to form a theatrical skating company that went all the way to Albert Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House. But his success came with the same dissatisfaction that tortured his father. Curry's sexual proclivities may have drifted toward the submissive and masochistic, but his directorial style was dictatorial, cruel and bossy.

Unfortunately, this film ends at the place where all narratives about gay icons from the 1970s and 80s almost inevitably do — with a vile homophobic sound bite from Ronald Regan and the revelation that yet another beautiful life was consumed by AIDS.

Specially features on this DVD include a piece on creating the music for the documentary and a Q&A with the director.

"The Ice King"
DVD $19.98

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