MTI Home Video presents
Chopin: Desire for Love (Chopin: Pragnienie milosci) (2002)
"You may destroy the books if you like, since my volumes are not worth one bar of your music."- George Sand (Danuta Stenka)
Stars: Piotr Adamczyk, Danuta Stenka
Other Stars: Bozena Stachura, Adam Woronowicz, Sara Müldner, Michal Konarski
Director: Jerzy Antczak
Manufacturer: DVD Masters
MPAA Rating: R for Sexuality
Run Time: 01h:58m:11s
Release Date: 2004-11-23
DVD ReviewFor some reason the fire of romance seems to burn more brightly when it is love between two intensely creative people. Perhaps the most celebrated instance of this was the tempestuous relationship between pianist/composer Frederic Chopin and author George Sand (Aurore Dudevant). This Polish biopic takes a look at their doomed romance and in so doing gets a great many things right but makes some conjectures that I don't think are quite supportable.
In 1830, Chopin (Piotr Adamczyk) is in Warsaw, in a Poland occupied by Russia. Irritated by being called to perform like a trained monkey by the Grand Duke, in the wake of oppression Chopin flees to Paris. After initial struggles in France, his compositions are finally published and he catches the eye of one of the foremost authors of the day, George Sand (Danuta Stenka). She immediately falls in love with him, but he resists at first. Even after they join together, their lives are complicated by her difficult children, Maurice (Adam Woronowicz) and Solange (Bozena Stachura), and not least of all, by Chopin's galloping consumption that sentences him to an early death.
The leads are generally quite capable, and actually look extraordinarily similar to their subjects. The filmmakers wisely kept Sand a middle-aged woman (a cigar-smoking proto-feminist) instead of tarting her up, since a good part of the dynamic between the two is that of the older woman/younger man. Indeed, in both age and immaturity he seems closer to the children, and the intense Oedipal rivalry between Maurice and Chopin is powerful at times, though at others he just comes off as a whiny, spoiled infant. Of course, that's not too far from the truth of Maurice and Solange, so while it's annoying to hear him whinge about Chopin playing piano all day and getting attention for his illness, it's at least supportable.
What's not supportable, so far as I know, is the claim that the final rupture between Sand and Chopin came from him having an affair with Sand's daughter à la Woody Allen. Director Jerzy Antczak goes so far as to suggest that Chopin was actually the father of Solange's first-born child, a libel that plummets to the levels of Immortal Beloved and its ludicrous conjectures about Beethoven. Of course, Antczak also suggests that a secondary cause of the breach was Chopin being served a chicken leg instead of a breast at dinner, which just makes him look like a lunatic, so Chopin lovers will have plenty to be unhappy about.
The romance appears to come out of nowhere and feels jerky; an additional ten minutes of courtship probably would have helped the flow of the film. The music is undeniably beautiful, without a doubt, and is performed by such notables as Emanuel Ax, Pamela Frank, and Yo-Yo Ma, so if nothing else the soundtrack is worthwhile. The picture is also quite attractively shot, making it good ear and eye candy even when the substance is lackluster.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||2.00:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.00:1; it's wider than 16:9 but nowhere near a scope ratio. While color is generally good, it's a little washed-out appearing. Thematically, that could be a reflection of the tubercular Chopin, but it seems at odds with the passion that is supposed to be engendered between the two leads. More problematic is a serious softness caused by interlacing artifacts; double exposures are rampant throughout. Possibly this was improperly transferred from a PAL video master. This conjecture is supported by the running time being significantly shorter than the Polish original.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround track sounds quite good, with the music coming through nicely with only a shade of shrillness, particularly in the surrounds. The audio is solely available in English, which seems unlikely given it was filmed in Poland by a mostly Polish cast. However, the dialogue perfectly matches the lip movements, so this appears to be an extraordinary job of dubbing. I suppose it's possible that a parallel export version was filmed, but certainly these aren't the original actors' voices, since they all speak with English accents.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bloom
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: A nonanamorphic widescreen English-language trailer is provided for the feature plus also another literature-connected picture. Bios and filmographies for the principal cast and crew are also included.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsAbout par for the course for a classical composer biopic: equal parts fact and sloppy fiction, though with decent central performances. The transfer is problematic and the extras are nominal.
Mark Zimmer 2005-01-13