Friday, May 08, 2015

"The Devil's Violinist": biography of Paganini


The Devil’s Violinist”, directed by Bernard Rose, is a sharp-looking period piece (early 19th century in Italy and England) and biography of flashy violinist-composer Niccollo Paganini, played by a rather handsome David Garrett. 

Apparently in the 19th century, sensationalism could sell just as it does in the Internet age.  Manager Urbani (Jared Harris). British lords John Watson and his mistress (Christian McKay and Veronica Ferres) bankroll the tour with all their wealth, and riots break out.  Old time religion comes back. 
  
Toward the end, Paganini gets sick, and the film says that the Vatican would not tolerate a proper burial. History says that he may have had Marfan syndrome, as well as syphilis or various other ailments. 
  
The lead actor was born David Bongartz and is a skilled violinist.  His virtuoso playing in the film is sensational.  It’s unusual for lead actors to play solo instruments in movies.  The DVD has two extras, and an interview with Garrett, where he explains how Paganini built on composers before him (Scarlatti) and inspired Liszt, Brahms and Rachmaninoff.  The DVD also offer Garrett and soprano Nicole Scherzinger performing a love song Paganini wrote for a mistress, based on the second movement of the Violin Concerto #4. 
  
To my ear, Paganini’s music has always sounded a little superficial.  The first violin concerto is often condensed to just one movement.
  
  
The official site is here (Screen Media, produced by German company Summer Storm).
  
The DVD came out rather quickly after the theatrical run this winter of a 2013 film, in English.
  
Somehow, the title of this movie reminds me of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”.

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