As some-one who is given to regularly reviewing the works of Ken Russell (against my better judgement I must say), a completely (often deliberately) misunderstood and unjustly derided film-maker; you eventually reach some kind of review-brick-wall; a point from which it's impossible to progress any further.
'Lisztomania' is Russell's MOST misunderstood and MOST unjustly derided motion picture. I'll bet much filthy lucre Russell laughed like a drain while he shot it. If ever a film, jam packed with fabulously garish and disrespectful visuals, was designed and clinically executed with the sole purpose of goading pompous, humourless, over-reverential critics - 'Lisztomania' is it.
Where else can you see a film where Richard Wagner grows a pair of vampire fangs; makes an Aryan monster (Thor - played by overblown organ-obsessive Rick Wakeman!); stages a thoroughly nightmarish 'Rape of the Rhine Maidens' - with the perpetrator sporting a Star of David tattoo (on his forehead!!); teaches innocent little kiddies anti-Semitic rock songs about 'Teutonic Godheads'; dies; then returns from the grave as a swastika emblazoned Frankenstein's monster with a Hitler moustache, firing an enormous guitar/machine gun at a space-ship full of his and Franz Liszt's ex-lovers, who are trying to bomb him ?
You can't... can you ?
Yes you can - and much, much more in 'Lisztomania'.
See Ringo Starr as the Pope: "Raped at gunpoint?....well it happens to the best of us my son".
Gasp at the brilliantly unfeasible nudity; reel at the disgraceful marrying of beautiful classical pieces to vulgar rock lyrics; fall on the floor and roll in the mud as Roger Daltrey's hair miraculously changes from 70's curly-perm to straight shoulder-length, half-way through the film - making a mockery of any attempt at continuity...
And I'm just scratching the surface.
'Lisztomania' is one of the most entertaining films ever made; it's also one of Russell's most autobiographical as well as the most historically accurate of all his biopics.
None of this matters a jot - I'm just trying to justify the pneumatically opinionated excess and comically distorted abandon with a fact or two; give the delirium some gravitas and worthiness...
Ken won't thank me - likewise those tediously boring classical music bods who will never realize that the art they so revere and cherish was of its time populist and reactionary - won't thank him.
'Lisztomania' is Ken Russell slowly raising a middle finger to the critic, to the elite and to the church among (many) others.
Unfortunately, when mega-conservative David Puttnam and his un-enlightened, un-prepossessing cohorts realized what Russell was doing with the money they were giving him - they didn't give him any more; and without the backing of Lord and Lady Muck at the BFI he never again achieved the kind of artistic success as he did in his insane 70's period.
He's made good films - but never really re-captured that desperate energy and dash he possessed in such abundance.
Those responsible should hang their heads in shame, as the limo drops them at yet another red carpet event celebrating 'the Bank Job', 'Four Weddings', 'Notting Hill' or whatever lumpen mush is passing for British movies these days.
They won't, but the fact that 'Lisztomania' exists at all, will serve to remind them that Britain could once turn out a real film and not merely a dispassionate formula.