In 1926 the tragic and untimely death of a silent screen actor caused female moviegoers to riot in the streets and in some cases to commit suicide - that actor was Rudolph Valentino. ... See full summary »
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In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun.
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Both trifles and structure are tossed out the door by director Ken Russell in this film. Here, historical content matters not so much as metaphors, feelings, emotions, and interpretations, and pay close attention, as every word and frame is intended to be important. The film takes place on a single train ride, in which the sickly composer Gustav Mahler and his wife, Alma, confront the reasons behind their faltered marriage and dying love. Each word seems to evoke memories of past, and so the audience witnesses events of Mahler's life that explain somewhat his present state. Included are his turbulent and dysfunctional family life as a child, his discovery of solace in the "natural" world, his brother's suicide, his [unwanted] conversion from Judiasm to Catholicism, his rocky marriage and the death of their young child. The movie weaves in and out of dreams, flashbacks, thoughts and reality as Russell poetically describes the man behind the music. Written by
Jonathan Dakss <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ken Russell was inspired to make his film about composer Gustav Mahler after greatly disliking Death in Venice (1971). In a segment of his autobiography about Mahler (1974), Russell said that he thought that the other "so-called Mahler film", Death in Venice, was rubbish. "People think it's about Mahler, all because his music is part of the soundtrack! The director, Luchino Visconti, never said it was about him, though." So he mocked the film in his movie. He had a satirical moment when Mahler looks out of the train and sees his dying lookalike. See more »
When Mahler's train leaves St. Pölten, a sign is visible identifying the town as "Saint Pölten". Yet, the German long script for the town is "Sankt Pölten". See more »
You wanted fame. Well, it looks as if you'll have to settle for notoriety.
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Most of us who've taken an interest in 'our Ken', especially recently after his death and some fascinating documentaries popped up about the great man, know that he started out making TV documentaries about the Great composers.
So, obviously, he's in his element here and whilst I've not had chance to see the rarer and expensive of these, out of the ones I have, about Tchaikovsky (The Music Lovers), and Liszt (Lisztomania), 'Mahler' is the most straightforward, less contentious and 'messed with', shall we say...
Personally, I rather like it when Ken added his personal 'flourishes'. Neither being religious, nor from any target from his heavy symbolism, I'm never really offended by anything that he did. When it got ugly, or stupid, or at a tangent that took it away from the subject entirely, as he did big time in Lisztomania, that's different, of course.
Robert Powell is a perfect Gustav Mahler - a fairly delicate individual, who, with his little round glasses and curly hair, looks every bit the intellectual. Much being filmed in the Lake District, there's some stunning scenery and Ken's eye never fails us, stylistically, in period detail or in composition.
Not being a huge fan of Classical music, that side has less importance for me but the score always seems entirely apt and suitable. The sound quality on the DVD, being excellent on The Music Lovers, is a rather tinny mono-sounding affair, here, which takes the dramatic edge off it. You need to turn it up for the score to resonate in time with some of the flamboyant set pieces.
Ken is well known now, for having been the one who turned boring biographies of long-dead creators of music into living and breathing programmes, turning the way such were made on their heads, whilst at the BBC. I do prefer The Music Lovers slightly, as it's more fiery but Mahler has a beauty, soul and understanding that one might not expect from the red-faced bellowing Mr Russell. For those interested in Ken's work, or Robert Powell, or indeed the composer himself, this is essential.
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