Monitor (1958– )
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The Debussy Film 

An actor is playing Claude Debussy in a film about the composer's life, and finds himself identifying with his subject very closely.


Ken Russell


Melvyn Bragg (dialogue), Melvyn Bragg (scenario) | 1 more credit »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Oliver Reed ... Claude Debussy
Vladek Sheybal ... Pierre Louÿs / Film Director
Annette Robertson Annette Robertson ... Gaby Dupont
Izabella Telezynska ... Madame Bardac (as Isa Teller)
Penny Service Penny Service ... Lily
Vernon Dobtcheff ... The Actor
Stephanie Randall Stephanie Randall ... Secretary
Jane Lumb Jane Lumb ... Saint Sebastian
Yvonne Antrobus Yvonne Antrobus ... Stage Lily
Verity Edmett Verity Edmett ... Zohra, the slave girl
Janet Fairhead Janet Fairhead ... Chouchou at 13
Alison Fiske Alison Fiske ... Maeterlinck's girlfriend
Ian Flintoff Ian Flintoff ... Stage Debussy
Elna Pearl Elna Pearl ... Vasnier daughter
Yvette Rees ... Stage Madame Bardac


An actor is playing Claude Debussy in a film about the composer's life, and finds himself identifying with his subject very closely.

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Featured in Film Review: Ken Russell (1968) See more »

User Reviews

arty but engrossing early Russell classic
12 May 2009 | by didi-5See all my reviews

When Ken Russell was working on his series of short films about composers for the BBC, including Elgar, Delibes, and this one about Debussy, it was hard to see that his style would evolve into the excesses of Tommy and The Lair of the White Worm. Still, his early work is well worth seeing and is echoed in some of his later work such as Savage Messiah and to some extent, Valentino and The Music Lovers.

In this Monitor episode, Russell regular Oliver Reed plays the composer in a series of voice overs, as well as a more modern reflection.Vladek Sheybal plays the slightly cynical narrator as well as a character in Debussy's life, Pierre Louis, who likes to do unmentionable things with young girls. Love interest Gaby is the elfin Annette Robertson, looking almost too modern and knowing for the time.

This is clearly a 60s film, looking back as well as forward. The effect is rather mixed, but magical, and it is beautifully filmed and developed. The kind of thing the BBC just aren't interested in anymore - The Debussy Film, Monitor, or Ken Russell just wouldn't get their foot in the door on TV today.

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Release Date:

18 May 1965 (UK) See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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