Wouldn’t you just die without Mahler?

I have a new essay up at Criterion, a “deep dive” in which writers highlight slightly neglected features buried in the Criterion site beneath the current big pictures. I’ve gone for Ken Russell’s MAHLER because it’s a good opportunity to get a little hysterical.


10 Responses to “Wouldn’t you just die without Mahler?”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Lovely piece. I’ve always enjoyed this one as it’s deeply felt (Ken didn’t just “admire” Mahler from afar — he really liked him) and it has that great finale where Mahler declares that he’s going to live when we all know he’s going to die. The Catholic Conversion sequence is Ken at his campiest. Likewise the brief spoof of Visconti’s “Death in Venice.” But the bulk of the film is quite sober. I do wish Georgina Hale had been discovered by other filmmakers. Her work her and in “The Boy Friend” is so outstanding you’d swear they would all be lining up to cast her.

    The sequence devoted to Mahler’s childhood originated in another of Ken’s projects. He saw it ideal for this and he’s right.

  2. ehrenstein47 Says:

    And while we’re on the subject of Gustav, here’s Tom Lehrer on Alma

  3. ROGER ALLEN Says:

    “A tolerable imitation of a composer.” was Ralph Vaughan Williams’s opinion of Mahler. He also thought Mahler would have benefitted from writing film music, as it would have given him a sense of proportion in his last movements.

  4. Thanks, David!

    Vaughan Williams was wrong, I think, but interesting that he remarks on the educational value of film scoring, something he tried himself. Mahler provides an excellent last movement for Death in Venice.

    One thing Russell’s film probably doesn’t have is a sense of proportion, but it’s more than a tolerable impersonation of a film.

  5. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Patrice Chereau used the adagio of Mahler’s unfinished 10th for the grand finale of “Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train”

  6. Tony Willaims Says:

    Title reminds me of Barbara Ly9on’s frequent line in LIFE WITH THE LYONS – “I’ll die. I’ll just die!”

  7. In this case it’s from Educating Rita, a line the title character picks up and passes on as she becomes, temporarily, a pseud.

  8. ehrenstein47 Says:

    “I’ll just die if I don’t get that recipe.”

  9. Lunifinito Says:

    Many Hollywood composers of Austrian origin had a direct connection to Mahler (Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold) or indirect through Bruno Walter (Franz Waxman).

  10. Thanks! Karol Rathaus, whose score for the 1931 Brothers Karamazov from Germany is absolutely groundbreaking, also consider Mahler a major influence.

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