Song of Summer (Ken Russell / United Kingdom, 1968):

Deliusís (Max Adrian) preference for Jerome Kern over Beethoven ("Forget the immortals") echoes Pinterís dig at "the Old Masters" ("Fuck Ďem"). Ken Russell feels the same way, though for once compassion trumps shock in his BBC portrait of ignoble artistry, which outclasses all of his randy-composer hissy fits. The aged artiste is a paralyzed crank, gnarled yet still snazzy in white chapeau, august beak and tinted shades; his French country manor is as blanched and stocked with objects díart as a Bergman cabin, his wife Jelka (Maureen Pryor) accepts the young, worshipful Eric Fenbyís (Christopher Gable) offer to help care for the dying tyrant. Aspiring musician and devout Catholic, Ferby gets ready to jot down the old paganís notes but instead rushes out in distress, at church he finds the priest shtupping a parishioner. The rapture of seeing one final sunset versus the laborious task of climbing the mountains for the image -- the ordeal of the artistic process, the burden of creativity. From his wheelchair Delius preaches against love, to his wifeís chagrin: "It is only from art that youíll find lust and happiness in life." Russellís view of talent indulged and talent sacrificed is revisited in Mahler with diminishing results, his feeling for nature, the human body and the emotional toll of creation as "an act of destruction" (Picasso) were never equaled. In the filmmakerís most humane work, the eclipse is mourned with petals: The ultimate art becomes not a composition running through the gramophone but a life fully lived. With David Collings, and Geraldine Sherman. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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