Ken Russell Tribute: Lisztomania

Co-presented by Warner Archive

The most fantastical, bawdy, synth-adelic, opulent and outré film ever from the Seventies’ most audacious cinematic enfant terrible! Following the huge success of Tommy, Ken Russell next tackled one of his trademark composer biographies — and the result was the life of Franz Liszt as channeled through Superman comics, 10-foot phalluses, glittery hoedowns, Frankenstein, Metropolis, Ringo Starr as “The Pope”(!), and a stupendous list of other impossible stuff. Portrayed by Roger Daltrey (and accompanied by an adapted score from keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman), Liszt is at first shown as a 19th-century equivalent to Daltrey’s real-life brand of rock ‘n roll animal — but, of course, Russell gleefully ramps every piece of sensory input to 11, pitting Liszt as a superhero priest sent to annihilate the scourge of vampiric Nazi mad scientist Richard Wagner. Not all pure insanity, Lisztomania also features startling moments of quiet clarity, exemplified in a heartrending flashback re-imagining Liszt’s idyllic romantic life as a cross-pollination between the winter cabin scenes of both Citizen Kane and The Gold Rush. Woefully misunderstood and critically savaged upon its original release, Lisztomania is one hell of a good time, and exemplifies a kind of radical chance-taking Hollywood can’t even conceive of today — the kind that Russell couldn’t conceive of not bringing to the screen. This one’s been on the “bucket list” of both Don’t Knock The Rock’s Allison Anders, and the Cinefamily programming team — so come party with us as we watch Lisztomania in a glorious archival 35mm print!
Dir. Ken Russell, 1975, 35mm, 103 min.

Watch Cinefamily’s original trailer for “Lisztomania”!

Watch Don’t Knock The Rock festival founder/programmer Allison Anders talking about the trailer for “Lisztomania” on Trailers From Hell”!
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