The Music Lovers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Music Lovers Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 5, 2011
Two quotes, two different films from 1971, the same critic: Alexander Walker, late of the London Evening Standard. 1) "I think it's a great film; I think it's one of the most important films ever made in this country." 2) "It looked like the masturbation fantasies of a Roman Catholic boyhood." The films in question? Respectively, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and Ken Russell's The Devils. Now, as far as the quotes go, I completely disagree with the first and broadly concur with the second, with the proviso that "masturbation fantasies" need not inherently be devoid of artistic merit, as Walker implies. What on Earth has this to do with The Music Lovers? Don't worry, I'm getting to it...

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.
Super Reviewer
½ February 12, 2011
Florid and excessive which is standard for Russell's films. The music of course is brilliant.
May 21, 2015
Directed and acted in what feels like a pitch of fever, this is an overwrought but effective film.
June 28, 2014
If you are unfamiliar with Ken Russell, you maybe a bit shocked by the over-the-top approach taken in the tragic telling of Tchaikovsky and Antonia Milyukova -- but this is actually a restrained Ken Russell. And, Glenda Jackson is brilliant. Beautifully filmed and truly passionate filmmaking. A bit unbridled, but worth it.
½ November 18, 2013
Often criticized for being an exaggerated and somewhat inaccurate bio of Tchaikovsky, the criticism seems to largely miss the point. Russell is striving for an emotional truth and he absolutely nails it. Russell had a deep understanding of music, and his musician biopics seem to be driven more by the music and the emotions they reveal about the composers than a dry regurgitation of facts. The scenes set to music in this film are extraordinary ... some of the best I have ever seen.
½ December 23, 2010
Between a 6/10 and 7/10, this Ken Russell fantasia-musical biography as wet dream-hangs together more successfully than his other similar efforts, thanks largely to a powerhouse performance by Glenda Jackson, one actress who can hold her own against Russell's excess.
December 12, 2011
Wonderful film and score about the life of Tchaikovsky. Filled with great scenes of anguish and Richard Chamberlain portrays the sexually tormented composer really well. Also fantastic is Glenda Jackson as the tragic Nina.
December 7, 2011
Not sure I would like this if it weren't for all the Tchaikovsky music.
February 24, 2011
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