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A send-up of the bawdy life of Romantic composer/piano virtuoso Franz Liszt, with ubiquitous phallic imagery and a good portion of the film devoted to Liszt's "friendship" with fellow composer Richard Wagner. The film begins during the time when Franz would give piano performance to a crowd of shrieking teenage fans while maintaining affairs with his (multiple!) mistresses. He eventually seeks Princess Carolyne of St. Petersburg (at her invitation), elopes, and, after their marriage is forbidden by the Pope, he embraces the monastic life as an abbé. Written by
Jonathan Dakss <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To many, this film is the stunning-proof that director Ken Russell never had it, and that idiocy and egotism were mistaken for genius. You could say mistaking idiocy and egotism for genius has been the appeal of rock music! Others might say that Russell is simply childish or immature, and that his films are the "masturbatory-fantasies" of an overgrown-adolescent. This belief is unfounded. Is this film over-indulgent? Yes it is, dear readers, very-much-so, because it is art, not entertainment. That-said, if you chuck any expectations, this is a funny film and allegory about the rise of pop-culture in the 19th Century. It draws parallels between Liszt's fame with the other generally-hollow spectacle known as "rock." This is great film-making, and it should be noted that it has similarities between itself and "Rocky Horror," and even "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," as they all examine and explore the relationships between sexuality and pop-culture in similar-areas. It really is true that women threw their underwear at Franz Liszt during his performances, and that he had many-many lovers--groupies.
Lisztomania is an odd bridge-between "classic" rock and the emergent punk-movement of the time. The film can also be seen as a statement that "rock" is not really subversive or rebellious at-all, but ultimately arch-conservative, and repressive. Amen. It's just a hilarious, wild-romp that will make your guests extremely nervous, which films should do. Movies should challenge people to think and reflect--at-least occasionally. Ironically (or maybe-not!), Mr. Russell had contracted Malcolm MacLaren and Vivienne Westwood to design the S&M-costumes for his film, "Mahler." It should also-be-noted that "Liszt-o-Mania" was released exactly the same year that MacLaren's shop "SEX" opened on King's Row, the rest is as they say, is history. It couldn't be more camp, it has Little Nell in it.
Basically-put, this is about the the ins-and-outs of "why" we want and need pop-culture, and WHAT we generally-want from our "pop-idols" (sex, of-course). One could easily-say this film criticizes the absurd spectacle that rock had become by 1975, and we get this quite-often in the film. But this theme goes much-deeper, into the relationship-between artist and patron (once, just the aristocracy, now the mob is added). The sexuality is about mass-psychology, too, so Wilhelm Reich gets-his-due, and there is a plethora of Freudian-imagery. It is certainly a very-personal film for Russell, and probably amuses him as much as it does myself that it enrages so-many critics, but it should be noted that some of the absurdity and excess came from the producer of the film, not Mr. Russell. Ken Rusell enrages all the right-people, and that's what some film-making should be.
God love this lapsed-Catholic, and God love his ways. A flawed part of his canon, but very watchable and educational. As Russell began his career doing documentaries and impressionistic-films on composers for the BBC, it makes-sense that this is considered one of his most heretical-works. He complains about the opening country-song in his autobiography 'Altered States', and there were other aspects of the production he didn't want in the film. It's interesting to note that the 1980s was the period of his purest-work, due mainly to a three-picture-deal with Vestron. The 1970s were actually a very mixed-bag for him, as Lisztomania attests. He isn't entirely-pleased with it, but had some fun with the material, and there it is. I think it's a hoot, which means it isn't on DVD.
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