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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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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>
The "Millionairess" and "Most Promising Actress" as addressed in the concert scene are Madame von Meck and Alma Mahler, from Ken Russell's previous films The Music Lovers (1971) and Mahler (1974). See more »
I know it sounds improbable, Your Holiness, but I...
But truth is stranger than fiction? We've kept going for two thousand years on that one.
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Grotesque effort at musical character assassination of Liszt and Wagner
The film suffers from atrocious vulgarization in very bad style and taste throughout, which is a pity, because the idea is not bad at all. Liszt and Wagner are portrayed in gross caricature, which they were already while they were alive and kicking, and just like the 19th century caricatures even these modern ones do not miss their target and actually pinpoint some obvious truths about these the greatest divas among composers in monstrous vanity and atrocious hubris. Liszt was the more sympathetic and actually fell a prey and victim to the ruthlessness of Wagner ending up as a trophy in his graveyard, while the depicting of Wagner as a vampire and prelude to Hitler, his Frankenstein monster, is not altogether maladroit. In certain aspects it actually hits the nail. The unnecessary hooliganism of the film is the corruption of the music, which really is very little Liszt and Wagner but the more Rick Wakeman in horrible disfigurement in pop and rock versions. This is not a music film or any kind of biography or documentation of great composers but rather a twisted parasitic phantasmagoria tearing classical music apart and more or less destroying it. Ringo Starr as a pope with Liverpool accent doesn't make things any better. It isn't even funny but only stupid and disgusting. although a few laughs must out. Still, because of the idea, the imagination, the great camera work and the brilliant fireworks entertainment, I have to give it 5, which is the lowest I ever rated a film here, and I am very doubtful whether I will see any other of Ken Russell's films on music, no matter how much I appreciated his "Valentino".
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