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Filled with guilt over his forbidden desires, young man leaves home and his studies. He finds a new smaller place to stay, a low-paying but satisfying job and a girlfriend. Then his mother, unable to fight her forbidden desires, shows up.
Melbourne born Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was a supremely talented and pretty weird musician and composer remembered musically for (English) Country Gardens, a folk song he collected, rearranged and popularised.
He was a piano virtuoso who was famous in London in the early 1900's for his rendition of Grieg's piano concerto, not to mention his alluring manner. I would imagine that there were a lot of young women at his concerts.
Passion outlines some aspects of his early life in London, concentrating mainly on Grainger's strange relationship with his mother, not to mention his rather peculiar behaviour with other women in his life. It's set in 1914 when Grainger's mother was ill.
There was a good deal of gossip about his apparently near incestuous relationship with his mother. This fellow was a piece of work.
Thankfully there's also a good deal of stirring, moving music included in this film about a musician. You certainly can't count on that happening. Hilary and Jackie about the cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and Shine which was concerned with pianist David Hefgott were both music biopics with strong Australian connections and they both failed to feature the music!
But anyway sex sells in film, much more easily than classical music, and not surprisingly Grainger's sexual strangeness is emphasised in Passion.
It seems that Percy was a great believer in the whip when it comes to sex. In fact if you should go to Melbourne it's well worth visiting the Grainger museum on Royal Parade in the Melbourne University grounds.
There you can view a selection of his whips along with a diary note documenting how he considered that flagellation is far superior to football with regards to relieving stress in the community. This boy was a forward thinker!
As well, there's a display of Grainger's music machines (hardly mentioned in the film) which are large contraptions designed to produce music automatically. There's also some of Percy's famous self made towelling clothing which is displayed with great elan in the movie as Percy jaunts along the local promenades. You'd have needed to have been very talented to get away with such behaviour in 1914 London and still prosper.
But what of the film. Richard Roxburgh as Percy Grainger gives a virtuoso performance as does Emily Woof who plays Grainger's girlfriend Karen. Roxburgh teamed previously with Passion's director Australian Peter Duncan in the interesting Children Of The Revolution.
Roxburg again in Passion exhibits unusual sensitivity and energy, although I suspect that we'd often be surprised by the abilities of many apparently staid actors if they chose to stretch themselves in so called art films.
Emily Woof along with Barbara Hershey as Percy's Mum are strong, although I didn't feel that we really got successfully inside Granger's syphillitic Mum. But then I suppose that might not have been all that attractive anyway. Australia's Claudia Karvan is interesting as the wife of Grainger's best friend, adding interest in what is a bit of a piece meal film.
Biopics are always beset by the same problem. Should the film limit itself to a cursory but expansive tale about the life of the subject, which is perhaps more the realm of the documentary, or should it concentrate on a small segment or aspect of the person's story.
It was disappointing to learn nothing about Grainger's later career or to find out more about his prodigious collections of English and Danish folk music but still Passion is above all passionate and very nicely filmed. Classical music lovers would do well to attend. Leave home the whips though, where they belong.
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