Paganini (Klaus Kinski / Italy-France, 1989):

Klaus Kinski assoluto. The continuous flurry begins with lips parting in extreme close-up (Citizen Kane, why not?), the ostentatiously galvanic violinist in his deathbed still refusing to apologize for being "a threat to society." Kinski wears black shoe polish on his hair and eyebrows and skulks onto the stage as a 19th-century Mick Jagger, holding the masses rapt just by bowing; as he saws promiscuously at his instrument, maidens pull up heavy gowns to diddle themselves. The top-hatted drama king wanders through carriages, pastoral fields and chambers made into Chardin canvases by natural lighting, and expires as he lived, at the center of a whirlwind. Paganini's catalogue of schtupping conquests includes Napoleon's little sister, disembodied voices razz and swoon ("You're so ugly ... A genius, a gift from God ... He's an animal"). How does one review this? Should one review this? Of the altars erected by artists for themselves (Brando's One-Eyed Jacks, Dylan's Renaldo and Clara, Argento's Scarlet Diva), Kinski's may be the most purely instinctual. Its editing suggests an advanced stage of epilepsy, childlike slow-motion is the presiding trope, images vacillate from Emmanuelle sequel to Barry Lyndon and back without a blink -- it sparkles, and it splits your skull. In the foreground is an acrid burlesque of the standard tortured-aesthete biopic, in the background a raw, impressionistic home movie ala Cassavetes with the auteur's barely-legal wife (Deborah Caprioglio) and son (Nikolai Kinski), and the two are pulled together to the view of the genius as defiler "in a permanent state of intellectual erection" (Dali). Kinski's raging shrine self-implodes, as it should, so that we're left with the spectacle of the passionate madman stripped to his greatest fear: "You want to seize my violence!" With Eva Grimaldi, and Bernard Blier.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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