The Music Lovers

(Ken Russell, UK, 1971)


If there such a tradition as Hysterical Cinema – and I believe there is, taking in august figures from Oliver Stone to Andrzej Zulawski – British director Ken Russell is surely one of its High Priests.

His lurid, tabloid style – unrestrained zooms, breathless tracking shots, absurdly pretty pastoral flashbacks, shock inserts of fantasies and nightmares – reaches the giddy (and at times sorry) height of camp Romanticism.

As usual for Russell, this biography of a screen composer (Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky) is a pure psychodramatic fantasy of sex, disease, death and giddy artistic Genius.

Be warned: although Russell can make any natural human trait seem decrepit and grotesque, he reserves a special wellspring of contempt for sexually frustrated women – particularly poor Glenda Jackson as Tchaikovsky's peasant wife.

MORE Russell: Lady Chatterley, Aria

© Adrian Martin July 1992

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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