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Films on the Life of Tchaikovsky: Talankin and Russell


Certainly many thoroughly familiar the two films on Tchaikovsky: the Russian made by Talankin (1969, premieres Aug. 31, 1970) and the British made by Russell (1970, premiered in London in December 1970, then in USA 24 January 1971). Two contemporary movies therefore.

In the films, there are a lot of sequences that are "almost" identical, for example:

  •  the party scene in the garden of Von Meck, with fireworks;
  • Von Meck visiting the house where he was guest Tchaikovsky, while the musician is absent (the Von Meck caresses the chair where the composer sits);
  • The scene in which Tchaikovsky is carried in triumph in arm of people

The similarities do not end there, anyway are not only for the events created, but the way they are represented.

Since it the two movies are contemporary, but the Russian appears to precede of some time the English, Russell "copied" Talankin?

Please excuse my English ...

Thank you.

Antonio Garganese
09/11/2012 11:38

Monsieur Antonio:

Sorry for such a late answer, but it took time to find the Talankin film.

It's obscure-- and for good reason.

First of all: films on the life of T., have never done the man justice.

The Russell film you refer to was just a bunch of tripe. Frankly, I find all of the late Mr. Russell's work to be just that. You have to wonder how some film makers raise $$$$ to make their films.

Based on the script?

Rubbish! But I'll leave that one with you.

Tchaikovsky was/is a far too complicated man to figure out. An enigma for sure; an obscure, shy, sensitive, determined and removed man. It's impossible for film to capture such a beast. You need a play.

The problem with these films, is not T's, sexuality. The problem is these "films" concentrate too much on the "enigma" aspect of his character. Thus-- the films are enigmatic.

All over the place; dream-sequences, inappropriate dance scenes etc. One is led to believe, (based on these films), that T led a life of 24-hour LSD-induced illusions!

One never gets the sense of Tchaikovsky. He's a very difficult man to figure. I mean-- anybody who marries a woman cause she's the name of a character in your opera?

Go figure...

I believe that he can be captured-- true-- on film. But he was/is a genius.

It's very hard work to get a man like that on the page.

Ever see a good, true film about Einstein? DeVinci? Moses?

As for me, I've written a play about T. I concentrated on his life with Alekski Sofronov. If there is a "mate" in this picture-- husband/wife type of relationship-- it's Alekski. I think he drove T to compose. I think he nurtured his genius.

I find it ironic and comically dumb that-- (even in this forum)-- people don't pay attention to that.

Sofronov's the key to Tchaikovsky's illusive character. And any future film should keep that in mind.


George Boyd
16/12/2012 16:44

P.S.: As to the question you pose in your missve-- they stole. "Artistic liscense" so-to-speak.

Mr. Boyd.

In November 2010, you indicated your intention to write a play on the life of P.I. Tchaikovsky.

From you latest posting, I was happy to learn that this commitment of yours has been fulfilled.

Please let me know how I can purchase a copy of your play.

A. Geidelberg
17/12/2012 10:12

George Boyd seems to claim only a play can capture the life of Tchaikovsky rather than a film.

But Mr Boyd just repeats myths about the composer:

"An enigma for sure; an obscure, shy, sensitive, determined and removed man. It's impossible for film to capture such a beast. You need a play."

Tchaikovsky does not conform to this stereotype. Accounts from his life show a far more sociable and well balanced individual than normally assumed. There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to make a film about Tchaikovsky's life; dream sequences are valid as an expression of someone who wrote so much music that is phantasmagorical, for example in The Queen of Spades. His music enters into strange worlds, but the composer was not so strange, an amiable and friendly individual.

Any play should not contain simple errors: Tchaikovsky did not marry a woman because "she's the name of a character in [his] opera". Tchaikovsky married Antonina Ivanovna Miliukova. There is no character of that name, or anything like it, in any of his operas.

Tchaikovsky life is shrouded in myth and prejudice. It is often repeated that he committed suicide. There is no evidence for this; it just suits the neurotic legend. It would be good to start removing these misunderstandings, rather than perpetuate them.

Norman Armstrong
Glasgow, UK.
17/12/2012 22:47

Hello all:

Mr. Armstrong you're absolutely correct in my error re: Antonina Ivanovna Milukova. Like a man-- I stand corrected.

I simply meant the letters-- the similarity between this and T's opera (Eugene Onegin?) is just too obvious to ignore.

However, like a man, I must confess that many of my friends have also suffered the misfortune(s) of a divorce.

Few, (if any!), however, have trappsed to the nearest pool of freezing, rushing water and attempted suicide. His connection to Von Meck (this not "seeing each other") can only be seen as a feeble, futile exercise in adolescence.

(He did catch a glimpse of her, after all remember-- and after all, he was staying on her bloody estate!! I mean-- Hell-oh!!) The "eccentric" and "above normal" attachments to his mother/nephew/sisters... (As they say in The King and I... "etcetera-etcetera-etcetera"). My character sketch of Dr. Tchaikovsky stands. In fact, I could add...

Shall we, with all levity, shall we collectively call these traits "Van Gogh's ears?"

In essence my contention:

people (producers/directors etc.) do not "get" Tchaikovsky NOT because they're afraid of his homosexual tendencies, but because they adamantly refuse acknowledge and accept it.

It is very possible and more than likely probable, that some hetrosexual men possess the character traits I attributed above ( and in my previous missive) to Dr. Tchaikovsky as well. That's my point.

He was a "normal genius"-- if there is such a thing-- regardless of whom he shared his bed with.

To address Mr. Garganese's original query: it's common practice for people in the movies to steal. I add, if I had to choose between the two films-- Russell by far. Talankin so misses the facts and plot points as to be on Neptune.

Mr. Geidelberg-- I have not published my Tchaikovsky, (called "Child of Glass") nor had it produced. After all this time I let it gather dust, but more importantly, "percolate." I don't know if I want to tell the maestro's story FULLY through Alekski's eyes or he and Tchaikovsky and every other permutation and combinations. Thanks for asking. I will get around to it.

Fiinally-- to all Season's Greetings and enjoy your production of the Nutcracker!!! I bring your attention to this in Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper:

haven't read the piece yet, but I'm sure Mr. Armstrong will inform us of an deficiencies.

George Boyd
18/12/2012 20:01

I read after his death, that Russell set out to tell a story..any story, truth didn`t enter into it, with any of his films and Tchaikovsky was the victim of it.

What was that about Tchaikovsky being a `beast`?

Maybe if Alexander Poznansky fancied adapted his books into a play/film?

Rosemary Belk
19/12/2012 17:16

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