27 June 2008 | michael-beckerman
While Milos Forman's Amadeus has garnered its fair share of awards, Jaromir Jires' biopic about Janacek, The Lion With the White Mane, remains in almost complete obscurity. It in no way deserves such a fate. Let's get one thing out of the way first: composer biopics are a motley lot, and one should never expect perfect historical veracity, if such a thing even existed.
Here are the strong points of the film.
1. Filed gloriously on location. Because of slow pace of change under Communism, this film, made in the middle 1980's could be filmed in all cases in the original locations (these are scenes taking place from the mid-1850's until the late 1920's). Janacek's house still exists behind his organ school, and locations are extraordinary. There are one or two particularly lush scenes of the Moravian countryside which may be counted as love poems from the director to the region.
2. There are wonderful performances of Janacek's music, including some wonderfully staged scenes from Jenufa.
3. The director has created several of what I call "cinepoems," that is, visuals "set" to preexistent music.
4. There are some wonderful performances.
I hope that readers get a chance to see this movie.