The Music Lovers Reviews
What I believe these quotes demonstrate very well is the critical snobbery and hypocrisy which dogged Ken Russell throughout his career. If you watch Dance of the Seven Veils, the biopic of Richard Strauss which brought Russell's dazzling tenure at the BBC to a controversial close in 1970, you will not fail to notice a reference to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. What I would argue is that, with A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick returned the compliment. With its army of grotesques, its leering, hallucinatory camerawork, the overarching campness of the whole production and - most tellingly - with its ultraviolence set to classical music, A Clockwork Orange resembles nothing so much as Ken Russell-lite. I simply cannot believe that Russell's work had no direct influence on Kubrick's movie - I will even stick my neck out and say that Russell in his prime would have made a better fist of it - so for Alexander Walker to dismiss Russell's oeuvre as garbage and embrace its progeny as a masterpiece is film criticism at its most maddeningly disingenuous.
While The Music Lovers, Russell's biography of Tchaikovsky, certainly does not represent this director at the height of his powers, it's nowhere near as terrible as the detractors would have you believe. The film contains flashes of brilliance, some stunning visual coups and, amidst all the vulgarity and excess, one or two lovely quiet moments. My favourite scene is probably the one in which Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain), his wife Nina (Glenda Jackson) and his jilted lover, the Count Chiluvsky (Christopher Gable), watch a performance of Swan Lake and the Count wistfully summarises the plot of the ballet for the benefit of his oblivious rival. For the best of Russell on the big screen, check out Women in Love, The Devils, The Boy Friend, Savage Messiah and Mahler. God Bless you, Ken, for dragging British cinema out of the Kitchen Sink.