The Music Lovers (1971) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Music Lovers (1971)



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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 with Nina (Glenda Jackson), the hysterical trollop he marries with dire consequences. As he explodes emotionally, his public performance of Piano Concerto in B flat minor becomes a cue for flashbacks to a series of discomforting childhood events that suggest incestuous relations with his sister. Back in real time, Tchaikovsky has to deal with Nina's outbursts while juggling his homosexual urges and his almost hidden desire for Count Anton Chiluvsky (Christopher Gable). The film also details the curious relationship between Tchaikovsky and his rich patroness, the middle-aged widow Madame Nadedja von Meck (Isabella Telezynska), who loves Tchaikovsky deeply, but refuses to meet him -- their only communication being through letters, even though he lives on her estate. Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra perform Tchaikovsky's music. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

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Max Adrian
as Nicholas
Christopher Gable
as Count Anton Chiluvsky
Kenneth Colley
as Modeste Tchaikovsky
Isabella Telezynska
as Mme. Von Meck
Maureen Pryor
as Mme. Milyukova, Nina's Mother
Sabina Maydelle
as Sasha Tchaikovsky
Ben Aris
as Young Lieutenant
Dennis Myers
as Vladimir Von Meck
John Myers
as Anatole Von Meck
Joanne Brown
as Olga Bredska
Alexei Jawdokimov
as Dimitri Shubelov
Georgina Parkinson
as Odile in `Swan Lake'
Alain Dubreuil
as Prince Siegfried in `Swan Lake'
Graham Armitage
as Prince Balukin
Consuela Chapman
as Tchaikovsky's Mother
Ernest Bale
as Headwaiter
Alex Brewer
as Young Tchaikovsky
Alexander Russell
as Mme. Von Meck's Grandson
Imogen Claire
as Lady in White
Peter White
as Von Rothbart in `Swan Lake'
Maggie Maxwell
as Queen in `Swan Lake'
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News & Interviews for The Music Lovers

Critic Reviews for The Music Lovers

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (7)

No matter how miserable his actual life, the classical composer tends to suffer in a new way on film.

January 14, 2019 | Full Review…

Although Tchaikovsky died of cholera, for which a hot bath was prescribed, the implication of "The Music Lovers" is that he was simply boiled to death, which is what the movie does to his genius.

January 14, 2019 | Full Review…

Vulgar, excessive, melodramatic and self-indulgent: Tchaikovsky's music is indeed all of these things, yet gloriously so, and the same goes for Ken Russell at his freewheeling best.

January 14, 2019 | Full Review…

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

April 30, 2012 | Full Review…

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.

April 30, 2012 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

The result is a motion picture that is frequently dramatically and visually stunning but more often tedious and grotesque.

February 23, 2012 | Full Review…

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
Stephen M

Super Reviewer


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

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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