The Music Lovers (1971)

The Music Lovers


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Movie Info

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is given the Ken Russell treatment in The Music Lovers, which means that there is plenty of music, plenty of passion, plenty of debauchery, and plenty of excess. Tame by Russell's later standards (Lisztomania), The Music Lovers nevertheless thrives on creative and sexual anguish. Richard Chamberlain plays Tchaikovsky with a bug-eyed intensity as a composer consumed by his art -- so consumed that his romantic attachments become bisexual and irrational. He falls in love … More

Rating: R
Genre: Musical & Performing Arts, Drama
Directed By:
In Theaters:
United Artists



as Peter Tchaikovsky

as Antonina Milyukova

as Nicholas Rubinstein

as Count Anton Chiluvsk...

as Mme. Nadedja von Mec...

as Modest Tchaikovsky

as Prince Siegfried in ...

as Queen in "Swan Lake"

as Headwaiter

as Young Lieutenant

as Lady in White

as Mme. Von Meck's Gran...

as Odile in "Swan Lake"

as Prince Balukin

as Dimitri Shubelov

as Von Rothbart in "Swa...

as Nina's Mother

as Olga Bredska
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Music Lovers

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (4)

Whole stretches of images seem pushed and pulled along before our eyes by projected desires and anxieties.

Full Review… | April 30, 2012
Village Voice
Top Critic

Totally irresponsible as a film about, or inspired by, or parallel to, or bearing a vague resemblance to, Tchaikovsky, his life and times. It is not, however, a complete failure.

Full Review… | April 30, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | September 18, 2003
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 23, 2012
Top Critic

Chamberlain gives a surprisingly good performance.

Full Review… | April 24, 2013
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Ken Russell's biopic of the legendary composer is distorted and excessive, but it's worth seeing.

Full Review… | June 16, 2012

Audience Reviews for The Music Lovers

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.

Stephen M

Super Reviewer


Florid and excessive which is standard for Russell's films. The music of course is brilliant.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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