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Tony Palmer's Film About Hector Berlioz: I, Berlioz

2.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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(Oct 13, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Tony Palmer directs this impressionistic documentary about the life and work of the French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz. Originally broadcast as part of the long-running ITV culture series The South Bank Show, the film focuses in particular on Berlioz's struggle to get his last opera 'Les Troyens' written and staged before his death in 1869.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Directors: Tony Palmer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Tony Palmer Films
  • DVD Release Date: October 13, 2009
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002FG9NDW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,232 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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.Read more ›
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I wonder whether a ban on Palmer must be seriously considered in order to protect the great creators of European classical music from "decapitation strikes" by this man! It is baffling how his hodge-podge of episodes on great composers ever qualified for DVD release!
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This film by Tony Palmer lived up to his high standards. It shoes the influences on one of the most original minds in all music. He is like no other and like the great individualists of music, he created a style and body of works like no other. Not that the French appreciate(d) him: "Les troyens" hadn't at the time of making received a full production in France (it has now, belatedly).

Palmer manages to encompass the vast range of inspiration and style that make Berlioz so fascinating and appealing: from the bombastic militarism to the tender and lyrical episodes found throughout his works. All in all, it made me want to hear and see more of this pre-eminent French musician's works.
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Like many of Tony Palmer's films this one is very thematic, in this case the drive to create, some origins of that drive and the clash between creativity and public acceptance. As a biography of Berlioz this film is lacking, but as an exploration of the creative inpulse it provides ideas, but no answers. The film has excerpts from a Tony Palmer production of The Trojans; I wish that version were available on DVD. For me the film worked at many levels -- I thought is was beautifully filmed, nicely edited and that it moved smoothly between film excerpts, on location shots and commentary. I watched it twice in close succession and enjoyed it both time.
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It is an interesting creation, just not how I imagine Berlioz. Too much emphasis on the bombastic.
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Tony Palmer's Film About Hector Berlioz: I, Berlioz
This item: Tony Palmer's Film About Hector Berlioz: I, Berlioz
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