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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 <email@example.com>
A very unique film, but also very difficult to rate
Ken Russell did have some interesting ideas that came across as entertaining but there were times where his style got ahead of him and the film in question, and Lisztomania epitomises a bit of both. Lisztomania is definitely a polarising film, people will find it wonderfully weird while others will find it tasteless. With me, both seem to be here which is the main reason why the film is not an easy one to rate. If you are looking for a biographical drama, look elsewhere, the first half does have a story to it(more than likely to be fictionalised though) but the second half is like you've having a long really surreal dream and the characters are merely parodies. There are some striking visuals that are colourful and surreal while the music is pulsating and catchy and there is evidence of wit and imaginative touches like the homage to Charlie Chaplin and Hammer films, the fantasy interlude, Liszt's arrival at the castle and the Frankenstein figure(though that may also come under vulgar too because it's Wagner and the Nazis). Fiona Lewis and Veronica Quilligan are good as well. Some of it can feel music-video-like though- much of the second half has very little plot and feels like an excuse to string different vignettes together with a lot of tone shifts- and while the special effects are mostly okay the spaceship is rather fake. Lisztomania does change tone a lot and some of the shifts come without warning and feel very chaotic and there are some touches that are vulgar like the piano torture machine, the giant penis, sex scenes at high speed, Nazi iconography. Not entirely which category the vaginal fantastic voyage comes under, visually it was imaginative but there was a real weirdness as well, the same could be said of the most unique version of the Pope you will ever see. Most of the acting is really not very good, Paul Nicholas is pretty awful, Ringo Starr has a naturalness but doesn't have much to do and Roger Daltry is rather dull. Russell has shown with his Elgar and Delius biographies that he can be restrained and Mahler also(though also with some outrageous images), but Lisztomania is the prime example that I've seen of his filmography where restraint and subtlety go completely out the window, and at times it can feel heavy-handed. Overall, very difficult to rate but is unlike many other films seen before, personally not entirely sure whether I liked or disliked it, most likely to be neither. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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