When Ken Russell was working on his series of short films about composers for the BBC, including Elgar, Delibes, and this one about Debussy, it was hard to see that his style would evolve into the excesses of Tommy and The Lair of the White Worm. Still, his early work is well worth seeing and is echoed in some of his later work such as Savage Messiah and to some extent, Valentino and The Music Lovers.
In this Monitor episode, Russell regular Oliver Reed plays the composer in a series of voice overs, as well as a more modern reflection.Vladek Sheybal plays the slightly cynical narrator as well as a character in Debussy's life, Pierre Louis, who likes to do unmentionable things with young girls. Love interest Gaby is the elfin Annette Robertson, looking almost too modern and knowing for the time.
This is clearly a 60s film, looking back as well as forward. The effect is rather mixed, but magical, and it is beautifully filmed and developed. The kind of thing the BBC just aren't interested in anymore
The Debussy Film, Monitor, or Ken Russell just wouldn't get their
foot in the door on TV today.
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