A Quick Film Review
Innsbruck 1976 figure skating champion John Curry passed away on April 15, 1994. At only age 44, his passing came too early and at a downward turn in his once-shining life. The at-turns glorious and tragic career is captured poignantly in 2018's documentary by James Erskine's The Ice King.
As a boy, he struggled with a relationship with his father, who discouraged Curry's interest in dance, yet found skating a close alternative - acceptable to his father as it could be viewed as a sport. As he progressed in skill and recognition, he was determined to bring more artistry into skating, going against the prevailing grain of how a masculine skater should perform. Also working against a Cold War-era judging system that often subjugated superior skaters at the expense of politics, he finally broke through with the 1976 European Championship, setting him up for his Olympic win the following month at Innsbruck.
But Curry always seemed plagued with a struggle for acceptance and happiness. From the missing bond with his father, to balancing art and sport and fights against political judging, to facing a rather forced coming out as gay at a very intolerant time, Curry was constantly in inner conflict. He references a "hidden shame", and expresses, "whatever greatness I possess, there are demons of equal value that are inside of my soul". Between unhealthy and tumultuous relationships, and a demanding and moody supervision of his companies, he was also often in public struggle.
As his businesses shut down from increasing disinterest, his physical breakdown, and the financial burden, an AIDS diagnosis brought his world to a stop. He retreated back to his childhood home for his final days,
The Ice King does a good job framing Curry as an ice dancer before his time, previewing a style that would win mass appeal by compatriots Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean just a few years later. I found it fitting that U.S. skater Johnny Weir is a featured commentator in the documentary, as it could be argued that his own skating has a straight line back to Curry's. Weir has seemingly flourished post-skating, which might also be thanks to Curry's paving a way. Curry was ahead of his time, and seemed to know it, bearing the weight of who he was. The Ice King is a reminder of his star burning too bright and too soon.