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Ken Russell's "The Music Lovers" might be the one of, if not the best
film ever made on the subject of classical music. I emphasize this,
because as a historical biography it could be described as merely
Russell portrays Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) as a closet homosexual who is haunted by the past and present. In order to obtain social acceptance, he marries a sexually ravenous young woman (Glenda Jackson). Their marriage, of course, proves to be disastrous, and Peter flees from his wife, isolating himself in the countryside to compose music for Madame Von Meck (Isabella Telezynska), a rich aristocrat and widow. But Tchaikovsky's past comes back to haunt him several times before the film's manic and grotesque conclusion.
Russell has constructed images that are beautiful and disgusting (often in the same scene) and the film is a perfect accompaniment to the inspiration and ambiance felt in the composer's music.
The best scenes involve the seamless meld between sound and image. A concert at the beginning of the film beautifully transposes images of audience members listening to Tchaikovsky's latest piece, with the fantasies that the music inspires in them. Numerous fantasy sequences throughout the film teeter on the edge of insanity, highlighting the composer's feelings and fears.
Which brings us to the film's astonishing and loony climax: an excessive montage set to the "War of 1812 Overture" that must rival any other sequence in the history of film for its inappropriateness. The piece is no doubt Tchaikovsky's most well known work, which brought him wealth and fame. But Russell presents his transition from composer to "star" entirely in fantasy. I could try to describe this sequence for you, but it would be futile. It must be seen to be believed. Let's just say that the climatic cannons from the "Overture" are put to violent and hilarious use.
The components of the film come together perfectly. Everyone seems to have been in their element while filming. The cinematography by Douglas Slocombe is absolutely beautiful, and proves to be the best feature of the film. This is possibly the best "looking" Russell film. Glenda Jackson's performance as the nymphomaniac wife is perfectly in tune with Russell's histrionic presentation. And though Richard Chamberlain does not fair as well, he shows some emotional depth that has hardly been seen in his other work.
Russell's pyrotechnic camera-work is so breathtaking that it is a wonder why the man cannot find work these days. "The Music Lovers" is an exercise in the pure joy of film-making and the emotions it can invoke within us. Perhaps Russell's career slipped through his fingers in the late 1970's (along with his budget), but this film, like Tchaikovsky's greatest compositions, is a work of genius.
I've always enjoyed watching this movie, so much because the music alone stands out for its exhilarating beauty. ( Possible Spoilers! ) Though not historically accurate, it captures the psychological emotions and passions, especially during the seven minute portion when the composer is playing the piano and imagining what the complete second movement of his Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 "visually" represents to himself, and what Antonina's amorous delusions would of wished it meant! In totality, the performance of this concerto and the visual interactions between Tchaikovsky, Sasha, Antonina, Madame von Meck, and the others in the concert hall are extremely intense concerning one of Russia's most famous composers. The director Ken Russell does an excellent job at directing his actors and actresses to portray the required emotional intensity, though somewhat comical over exaggerated script of the story based on the book, "Beloved Friend" The Story of Tchaikovsky and Nadejda von Meck. But, even so the excellent acting by the leading and supporting actors and actresses move this film into its "pathetique" or tragic climax. The acting by the wonderful actress Glenda Jackson is superb in her interpretation of the unbalanced Antonina Milyukova. Her performance is an effective counterbalance to Richard Chamberlain's extraordinarily complicated portrayal of Peter Tchaikovsky with all of his emotional energies concentrated on his musical compositions and his private personal torments controlling his "fate" of never having what society would deem a "normal" life! So much said that this excellent movie is a tribute to a composer genius, especially on the anniversary ( 6th November 1893 ) of the one-hundred-eleventh year of his unfortunate mysterious death by his own hands. My rating for this movie is a 3 out of 4.
Although this film is difficult to follow at times (and, reportedly,
historically inaccurate, too; I wouldn't know), there are still several
reasons to see it:
1) Glenda Jackson's outstanding performance (you won't believe that the actress we see at the final stages of the film is the same one who played Tchaikovsky's wife early on, but it is - her transformation is amazing).
2) Some truly impressive sequences; be sure to watch this movie on tape, so you can rewind it and watch them again.
3) Tchaikovsky's music, of course.
4) Lush sets and costumes.
Ken Russell is a very unpredictable director; just when you think the film is about to start boring you, he'll give you a wonderful moment out of nowhere.
"Music Lovers" has long been labored over as another of Ken Russell extravagant excess baggages. Seeing it again has made me realize that the film is rather brilliant--not in cinema style but in conception. From the very start it seems to capture the schizoid world of Tsaichovsky and the social milleau he was forced to grip with. The point of view shots and the subsequent dream sequences in the early portion of the film capture this in brilliant colors and sharp editing. As the musician falls into his double life the scnes build to the scarring climax. Performances are excellent. The film may not be totally accurate, but who cares?
One of Richard Chamberlain's most memorable and fringe roles. Glenda Jackson is brilliant. The romance, passion, melodrama, and ultimate tragic fate of the main characters are all intensely portrayed with rich cinematography and the most lavish sets Russell ever used. The film carries that subtle yet omnipresent surreality which is a trademark of Russell's films, and which some find so annoying, and others so seductive and heightening of the experience. A truly wonderful but sad film.
"The Music Lovers" captures the Ken Russell style at its best. It's a full blown expression of his romanticized, shocking, exaggerated biographies, previously seen in black and white, low-budget BBC productions (more adequately financed here thanks to the success of "Women In Love"). Russell's excessive style contrasts the supreme beauty of Tchaikovsky's music with the turbulent, tormented, messy life from which it arose. The visual flights of fancy succeed in conveying the musical transcendence. Performances go way over the top, but the treatment calls for it. Richard Chamberlain bravely goes where few actors would in 1970. Glenda Jackson is absolutely fearless. She'll do whatever it takes, from writhing around nude to shaving her head. There's no denying the film is a deliberate assault on the senses, but thoughtful viewers will leave with much to contemplate and digest. I should not omit the fact that it's highly entertaining as well.
As startling and entertaining a piece of cinema The Music Lovers is, on
the whole it will disappoint those who (not unreasonably) may be
expecting an accurate (if typically melodramatic) biopic.
Rife with inaccuracies, The Music Lovers however occasionally elicits tantalising moments of truth which will be familiar to those who might have studied the great man and his music. The moment of madness during the composition of the violin concerto, Tchaikovsk'y mixing fact and fiction during the composition of Eugene Onegin; (resulting in his disastrous marriage), the brief glimpse of his benefactress during a stay at her apartments, the failed suicide attempt etc etc. However, these fascinating glimpses into well documented occurrences are undeveloped, and in their place we are left with a pastiche either of overly romanticised or histrionic scenes of theatrical fantasy.
The real strength here lies in the actor's performances, even Richard Chaimberlain's stuffy and occasionally irritating performance has its moments and Glenda Jackson is wonderful as the vulnerable, unloved wife. The cinematography too is wonderful, evocative and colourful - perfectly in tune with the music of Tchaikovsk'y which also is used to great effect.
If you can take Ken Russel's notorious penchant for the ridiculous (and at times, distasteful) and are not expecting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then The Music Lovers is worth watching if only for its being so gloriously over the top!
quite possibly one of the greatest films of ALL time.also the most under rated and misunderstood bios ever made. never has a film so flawlessly combined music and image to create the telling of a mans life through his excessively romantic music combined with equally excessive visuals.its highly operatic in its telling and to some over the top. how anyone can say that after listening to the mans music is beyond me.in short this is without doubt my favorite film ever made.
This film is one of Ken Russell's best dramatic romps. He dashes through late 19th Century Russian history without a care to whether it is all in the correct place or not. But that doesn't matter. It's your typical Russell film: Overstated dramatic acting, madness, mental institutions, frilly frocks and women with low-cut dresses and big boobs. As this film recounts the life of 19th Century Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Russell manages to capture a feeling this is essentially Russian. You could almost swear that the story was straight out of a Checkov play, it has that Russian warmth to it. Far more interesting than a long, drawn-out serious biography, The Music Lovers is fun and entertaining in a dramatic way, worth watching. However, keep to the encyclopaedia if you want a proper history of Tchaikovsky's life.
Weird , bizarre story of Tchaikovsky's life . Based partially on facts
, as Tchaikovsky lived as a bachelor for most of his life . As piano
teacher Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) is an emotionally
insecure man who struggles against his homosexuality . In 1868 he met
Belgian soprano Désirée Artôt . They became infatuated with each other
and were engaged to be married but due to Artôt's refusal to give up
the stage or settle in Russia , the relationship ended . Tchaikovsky
later claimed she was the only woman he ever loved . In 1877, at the
age of 37 , he wed a former but depressed student , Antonina Miliukova
(Glenda Jackson) . The marriage was a disaster . Mismatched
psychologically and sexually , the couple lived together for only two
and a half months before Tchaikovsky left , overwrought emotionally and
suffering from an acute writer's block . Tchaikovsky's marital debacle
may have forced him to face the full truth about his sexuality and he
never blamed Antonina for the failure of their marriage . Tchaikovsky's
family remained supportive of him during this crisis and throughout his
life . He was also aided by Nadezhda Von Meck (Izabella Telezynska) ,
the widow of a railway magnate who had begun contact with him not long
before the marriage . As The support of a wealthy widow as a patron
gives him the artistic support he needs . As well as an important
friend and emotional support , she also became his patroness for the
next 13 years , which allowed him to focus exclusively on composition .
Tchaikovsky remained abroad for a year after the disintegration of his
marriage. During this time, he completed Eugene Onegin , orchestrated
his Fourth Symphony and composed the Violin Concerto . The formal
Western-oriented teaching he received there set him apart from
composers of the contemporary nationalist movement embodied by the
Russian composers of The Five (it refers to a circle of composers who
met in Saint Petersburg, in the years 18561870 : Mily Balakirev ,
César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander
Borodin), with whom his professional relationship was mixed . He was
the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression
internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in
Europe and the United States . Tchaikovsky was honored in 1884 by
Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension .
This is an intense and thoughtful tale about a thunderous relationship proceeded in a Russel's style . As the film displays his trademarks , extreme angle cameras , excessive facial close-ups, utilization of numerous camera shots with primary colors and overblown visuals . Dealing with the tortuous struggles to have his music accepted as well as Pyotr attempts to suppress his homosexuality , experiencing serious psychological damage . In Ken Russell's own words: ¨It's the story of the marriage between a homosexual and a nymphomaniac that proved to be disastrous¨ . It's a convincing picture though relies heavily on the stormy relationship between Tchaikovsky/Richard Chamberlain and Nina/Glenda Jackson . Magnificent acting with exaggerated but convincing performances . Russell offered Alan Bates the lead role of Tchaikovsky during the filming of Women in love (1969) ; although Bates admired the script he turned the role down . Excellent main cast and secondary actors , such as Kenneth Colley , Bruce Robinson and Max Adrian as Nicholas Rubinstein , among others .
Glamorous cinematography with exceptional attention to detail and captivating images by Douglas Slocombe . Spectacular musical score by Andre Previn conducting famous parts as Romeo and Juliet , overture 1812 , miniature march , dance of the clowns , Scherzo burlesque , Manfred Symphony , 6th Symphony , String Quartet No. 3 , Polovtsian Dances from "Prince Igor" by Borodin . The motion picture was well directed with flamboyance style by Ken Rusell . He's an expert director , whose greatest success was in the 70s with an offbeat musical biographies , such as 'Mahler , Lizstomania , Music lovers' , besides he directed another hits , as ¨Women in love¨ , ¨Valentino¨ and ¨The Devils¨. This outlandish biographic chronicle will appeal to Ken Russell fans.
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