A gift for hyperbole has been noted in Ken Russell's work before now, and it is argued both fulsomely and aptly to his remarkable film about Tchaikovsky [The Music Lovers]. Since much of this composer's work has been construed as a romantic compensation for the personal torments of his life, Russell's method is justified. Passages of great beauty are contrasted with a pronounced ugliness, as for example in Tchaikovsky's memory of the hot bath given his mother in a futile attempt to save her from death by cholera. This has its dramatically valid purpose, of course, because the same treatment was used without success when the son died of the same disease: therefore we get a double dose of grotesquerie…. Such incidents, to which Russell's film is rather prone, are not only pertinent to the hypersensitive state of mind he is depicting—they are also brilliantly cinematic. Yet, for my own taste, I find them in the long run too much. It would be unfair not to acknowledge their viability in a work that affords us an impression of the artist's psyche, as distinct from a mere documentation of the known facts about his life and work; nevertheless they have a tendency to outweigh the heady splendours of the passages which are superbly aligned with the music itself, the calculated flights of romanticism that echo visually the melodic graces and raptures of the composer's wishful imagination. (p. 47)
Rather an excess of footage … has...
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