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‘Il Boemo’ review: a luxuriously appointed Czech musical autobiography



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At the height of his career, Czech composer Josef Mysljevic was the most prolific and sought-after character of Italian opera, and was destined for immortal celebrity. Nearly three centuries later, classical musicologists have not forgotten his name, but there is also nothing that comes close to the status of the family; Meanwhile, the facts and records of his personal life have been largely lost in history. Through a mixture of free narrative speculation and meticulous musical presentation, Peter Vaclav’s sumptuous and opulent biography “Il Boemo” seeks to reclaim a degree of stature for talent that has more recently been eclipsed by relative contemporaries in the 18th century, albeit not with so much ostentation or modernity. Own it: This is a fashion drama of an ornately decorated traditional font, a classic music lesson for the classics.

It’s unlikely to cause any harm to “Il Boemo” as it travels further on the festival circuit after its world premiere in the main competition for San Sebastian, and the film’s profile has been boosted by its selection as the Czech Republic’s nominee for the international feature film Oscar. Arthouse’s older audiences, in particular, should turn to a lush, multilingual European production in imitation of Gérard Corpiao’s success in the 1990s “Farinelli: Il Castrato”—or, more optimistically, Milos Forman’s “Amadeus,” which like “Il Boemo” The tale of a related career eventually consumed by the wonderful legend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Like Mysliveček—known in Italy as Il Boemo (Bohemian) to fans unwilling to deal with clips of his last name—Vaclav cast a sometime charismatic look at pop singer Vojtěch Dyk, a choice that subtly suggests the composer’s allure at its most pompous. Otherwise, contemporary allusions to the film are scarce. Working from an emphatic, incomplete autobiography, based largely on correspondence with Mozart in the Czech composer’s final decade, Vaclav’s occasional text frames him here as a universal, playboy intruder in Italian high society—at least, after a brief introduction from Rome our hero advanced shortly before From his poor death in 1781, at the age of 44, his face was masked to hide the ravages of syphilis.

As we go back to brighter days in 1765, DP Diego Romero – known for his collaboration with filmmaker Roberto Minervini, who works here on a richer register – practically washes the frame with gun gold. Undisguised and undistinguished, a young Czech immigrant climbs the social ladder in the floating city by offering music lessons (and many other things besides that) to well-to-do women, breaking the heart of an aspiring cellist as he leaps into an affair with an older aristocrat Ruzi (Elena Radonech). ). In the end, he got the ear of soprano Caterina Gabrielli (Barbara Ronci), whose painstakingly admiration was key to his rise in Italy’s burgeoning opera scene—presenting himself in a transitional state between Baroque luxury and classic lightness.

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Gracefully adapting to changing times and tastes, Mysliveček astounds noble listeners like the brooding young King of Naples and yet suffers from the sense that his art never reaches or resonates as often as possible. This perception is echoed by his most persistent and elusive lover, the unfortunate married noblewoman Anna (Lana Vlady), who advised him that his music “can be felt more deeply”. That’s a blow to his ego, sure, though it might not be quite as frustrating as his burgeoning acquaintance with teenage Mozart (the delicious Philip Amadeus Hahn, himself a young piano prodigy), who, in the film’s wittiest scene, adorably mocks one. From the writings of Mysliveček with an overwhelming lack of visual effort.

Not that “Il Boemo” treats the Czech composer’s work with similarly fleeting disdain. For newcomers to his work in particular, his brilliant musical treatment here – conducted by Václav Luks and played by the famous Baroque 1704 Collegium Orchestra – is a huge treat for the film, delighting even as the storytelling sometimes flows through an intentional 143-minute running time. However, for all of Vaclav’s dedication to his subject (which he previously explored in his 2015 documentary Confession of the Disappeared), Mysliveček hasn’t emerged as a full-fledged character: only one tone-changing scene in the composer’s Prague homeland (with Dyk plus playing his twin brother) It alludes to a mysteriously drawn past.

On the other hand, the film’s Italian setting couldn’t be more straightforward, fusing rich historical sites with lavish design work by Irina Hradica and Luca Cervino. Meanwhile, Andrea Cavallito’s costume designer does more than just throw an ornate extravaganza on display, instead carefully recycling items to remind viewers that Mysliveček, even in its heyday, wasn’t far from a bad mess: in particular, one gorgeous coat of Turquoise velvet has followed it through the years, the costume of an ambitious ogre at one point, a literal sign of fading glory later.