31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
The greatest British feature film ever made? Quite possibly.
, 30 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The Music Lovers  [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This film has so much going for it that you should stop and think twice before dismissing my claim.
First of all it is a genuine Tragedy in the Aristotelian sense.
Secondly, it is the tragedy of a major musical genius who is also a popular 'romantic artist'.
Thirdly, he is treated by Russell as the representative Romantic Artist who tries but fails to live up to his ideals, or, to put it another way, it's about the distance between the life and the art. This has always been Russell's main theme as a filmaker but you need to have his films about Debussy, Rossetti, Isadora Duncan, Richard Strauss and Delius, all made for BBC television, to put alongside the more familiar feature films to see this pattern as a whole.
It also touches profoundly, especially at the climax, on the subject of shamanism and genius.
Fourthly, the expressionistic visual style of the film is an attempt to create a visual equivalent of Tchaikovsky's kind of Romantic music as an art form. In this it is nothing less than an experimental arthouse film - and a successful experiment at that.
What other film in the 'all time great' category has this sort of grand universality of subject matter including Art, genius, Tragedy, the Romantic Artist, failed ideals of the highest kind? None at all with the possible exception, stretching my categories a bit, of 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' or perhaps the Russian film of 'War And Peace'. Neither of them is British so I nominate this film as the best British feature film on the grounds of subject matter combined with its powerful treatment in what is an undoubtedly non-naturalistic and original way - sometimes even Expressionistic - stamped in every frame with the director's vision: I give points for this because it is more of a purely cinematic aesthetic than naturalism is.
I must admit, however, that to be fair, I should also give a very honourable mention to that other great film about Isadora Duncan called simply 'Isadora' directed by Karel Reisz and which starred Vanessa Redgrave in her finest performance. In many respects this should be considered along with 'The Music Lovers' as their style and intention is similar. It is much underrated, mainly I imagine because it isn't very well known.
We also need to have Russell's films about Wordsworth, Coleridge, Bruckner, Vaughan Williams and Martinu, all made for television, but for ITV this time, like the missing films still not released on DVD in this country on PAL, which I mentioned above.
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