The Ice King – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: James Erskine
Writer: James Erskine
John Curry was born in Birmingham in 1949 where his father owned and ran a manufacturing business. Curry was the youngest of three sons. At the age of five he asked to attend ballet lessons. His father refused to let him but he did allow him a few years later to attend skating classes because he considered skating a sport. John excelled at the sport in particular figure skating. He was to transform it in the years to come from a sport of masculine athleticism into a sensitive, expressive art form. In order to do so he broke many glass ceilings and his unique vision received world recognition when he won gold at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck in 1976. But this for him was a stepping stone which enabled him to create his own skating company so that he could perform free from competition in the way he wanted. However, underlying his vaunting professional ambition, he had his demons from childhood not least with his father who had died when he was still young. In addition he was gay, a fact he did not try to shy away from when it became public knowledge immediately after the Olympics in the still homophobic nineteen seventies.
Erskine uses interviews with Curry and with his lovers, family and friends. He also uses his letters in which appear on screen in facsimile. His childish handwriting complete with spelling errors somehow lead into his inner thoughts and often they reveal the dark side of Curry’s personality which drove him into lonely places. New York city where he spent much of his time after 1976 was a febrile and exciting place for a good looking, famous gay man to live but it was also a place of unseen dangers.
Erskine tells the story of this talented man, with his flaws, concentrating on the great challenges and trials that Curry had to overcome to create that six minutes of artistic perfection on the ice at Innsbruck in 1976. That was his first triumph. His second was the choreography he created for himself and other skaters which followed. He transformed the boundaries of what was possible for a skater to create. It all came at a great financial and personal price. It is worth going to see for the magnificence and the tragedy of it all. A wonderful documentary.