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Tony Palmer's Film About Hector Berlioz: I, Berlioz
Tony Palmer's Film About Hector Berlioz I Berlioz
Director: Tony Palmer
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2009     1hr 28min

Documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Tony Palmer on the life of legendary composer Hector Berlioz. This film is based on the Letters & Memoirs of Hector Berlioz


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Movie Details

Director: Tony Palmer
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Classical
Studio: Tony Palmer Films
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 10/13/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1992
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 28min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Desecration of a Great Composer
Drew Odom | California | 05/11/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)

"This movie consists mainly of borrowed footage intercutting an "autobiographical" reminiscence ostensibly by Berlioz himself. Its thesis is that war dominated both Berlioz' art and life. It emphasizes the failure of Berlioz' most imposing work, Les Troyens, to be played in full during his lifetime, making that failure the composer's all consuming obsession. Nearly everything about the man is seen to be morbid, doomed, grotesque. The film completely ignores scores that do not fit this picture, L'Enfance du Christ, for instance, or the late, serene Beatrice and Benedict. The vision it offers of Berlioz, in short, is far more Palmer's than Berlioz' own since it renders the man with a perversely single-minded way of seeing the world, one that fails to acknowledge or to offer to the viewer the full complexity of his music and his thought. In fact, the Berlioz of this movie, as too often in popular representations of him, is presented as if he were a romantic grotesque himself, able to see only the bone beneath the skin. But Berlioz was far more than this. Much worse, this film's own visual imagination, so dependent upon its borrowings from others, is nearly adolescent. Sensuality is hootchie-cootchie naked women, for example. And, be warned, one overly long borrowing is, I believe, taken from Blood of the Beasts, the French film on slaughter houses, brought into the film by an analogy the narrative voice makes. It is dreadful to watch. Worse, like so much of material used in the movie, it makes little sense. In short, this film sensationalizes Berlioz, as if he were a figure of an adolescent romanticism, when in fact he was a complex, ambiguous, and, as often as not, classical artist, disciplined and finely intelligent. His love for Virgil was in part a profound admiration for that classicism. So one sees a lot of footage from bad movies or bad documentaries--including irrupting volcanoes and the like--intercut with some not very good performances of a few Berlioz pieces, primarily Les Troyens, and a dismally, almost embarrassingly delivered "last will and testament." This is not Berlioz. This is Berlioz transmogrified into a bad romantic poet doomed by the truly bad footage he finds himself in--snippets, by the way, that are not identified and which, if I read them correctly, rarely make sense. (One segment surely must come from a film about the Paris Commune, an event that occurred after Berlioz' death.) It looks cheap and cheapens Berlioz. If you care about the man, if you think of him as a great composer, perhaps the greatest French composer, if you care about art at all, avoid this film."