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When Nikolai "Kolya" Rodchenko's plane makes an emergency landing in the Soviet Union, the world-famous dancer, played by Mikhail Baryshnikov, has reason to feel terrified: now that the defector is back on Russian soil, the authorities may refuse to let him leave again. But the KGB actually has a subtler and more clever plan: they want Kolya to return of his own free will. They send him to Siberia to meet with another famous defector, Raymond Greenwood (Gregory Hines), a talented African-American tap dancer, who has requested Russian citizenship because he'd become fed up with racism at home.
Despite their clashing ideologies, the two men find that their love of dance overcomes political differences. But Kolya is determined to go back to the United States, and Raymond is just as determined not to leave his wife, a Soviet citizen. In a strange role reversal, the two must find common ground for either to get what they want. Baryshnikov's graceful, gravity-defying balletic dancing and Hines's loose-limbed, seemingly effortless tap dancing are among the film's best moments.
1985 - Academy Awards - Best Original Song Winner
Eight years after he famously defected from Russia, world-renowned dancer Nikolai Rodchenko finds himself back on Russian soil against his will when his plane is forced to make an emergency landing at a Soviet military base. The Soviets quickly learn his identity and decide to hold him as a criminal. But concern for the Soviet image worldwide has them wanting to convert Rodchenko, not punish him, so he is matched up with another dancer--an American defector--to encourage his loyalty. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines each bring their own brand of dance to the film, with Twyla Tharp's choreography. The soundtrack features Lionel Richie's "Say You Say Me," and Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin singing "Separate Lives."
Shot on location in Finland and Portugal, although most of the film's story is set in Russia, in both Moscow and Siberia. Gregory Hines did what was credited as "Tap Improvography," and Roland Petit was the original choreographer for the ballet "La Jeune Homme et la Mort." Twyla Tharp is the choreographer of the other dance numbers in the film. WHITE NIGHTS was the American film debut for Isabella Rossellini. The film's soundtrack introduced singer Marilyn Martin. The film was originally rated R by the MPAA, but won a PG-13 rating on appeal.
"...Hackford has made a film with good looks....Skolimowksi exudes intelligent villainy....Helen Mirren has some intense, tearful scenes..." - 11/06/1985 Variety
"[S]urprisingly watchable....It's a treat to see a dance film where the numbers don't bring the narrative to a grinding halt." -- Grade: B - 09/01/2006 Entertainment Weekly, p.59