DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE DEATH OF MARIA MALIBRAN (DER TOD DER MARIA MALIBRAN) (director/writer: Werner Schroeter; cinematographer: Werner Schroeter; editor: Werner Schroeter; music: Janis Joplin/Igor Stravinsky/Brahms/Rossini/Mozart; cast: Magdalena Montezuma (Maria Malibran), Christine Kaufmann, Candy Darling, Ingrid Craven, Manuela Riva, Anette Tirier; Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Werner Schroeter; Filmmuseum/PAL format; 1972-West Germany-in German with English subtitles)

"The high camp production is a trip well-worth taking for the adventurous."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Noted German cult filmmaker Werner Schroeter ("Neurasia"/"Der Bomberpilot"/"Argila"), whose passion is opera, creates an amazingly bizarre kitsch art musical film based on the life of Maria Malibran (Magdalena Montezuma), the 19th-century Spanish prima donna, who at 28 , in 1836, died during a performance due to injuries from a riding fall. To escape her possessive vocal coach father she married a NYC banker, but left him for Europe and a violin player when he went bankrupt.

The humorous pic hardly makes sense, shot in a tableaux form with each episode having a different motif and ending in a blackout, but the high camp production is a trip well-worth taking for the adventurous and the heroine it pays tribute to enchantingly appears in various costumes to spout odd bio info on her character from unnamed books (maybe the singer's diary) and either lip-synch or belt out a medley of songs. It's beautifully filmed in Schwetzingen, Wilhelmsbad (near Hanau), Naples, Vienna and other lush spots. It hypnotically is a celebration of pain and loss, that offers no manifest plot, voices that seem disembodied and no sensible dialogue (there are Shakespearean soliloquies). The range of melodies include a Janis Joplin and Marty Robbins tune, a riveting St. Louis Blues number, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, a Brahms rhapsody for viola, Andy Warhol starlet Candy Darling as a cross-dresser, Christine Kaufmann in various transvestite poses, two women finding love in a snowy forest and a funeral ritual tableau that is eye-catching. Even if the storytelling is weird, to say the least, Schroeter' homage to Maria Malibran is filled only with love for her.

REVIEWED ON 4/2/2014       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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