Paganini (1989)

Paganini - TheatricalSynopsis: Witness the life and times of madman and genius violinist Niccolo Paganini. Haunted by the demons of lust and beauty, Paganini pursues his ideal of artistic creation while challenging the moral boundaries of his era. Ridiculed and feared, suspected to be a devil worshipper and still envied for his miraculous musical skills, Paganini created some of the most complex and astonishing music ever. And yet, for all his visionary art, the master of demonic violin playing was considered no more than a freak to be pitied. But his genius still lives today. Just as strong as Klaus Kinski’s final masterpiece.

Directed by Klaus Kinski at the most rebid height of his feverish hallucinatory creative power, Paganini is one of the most extreme biopics ever committed to the screen. Mixing together Werner Herzog, Ken Russell and Federico Fellini, Kinski pulls off his artistic testament in a way no director has dared before. Sex, violence, incredible complex shots and gorgeous women make Paganini a one of a kind film.

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Paganini (1989) ?

eyelights: the soundtrack. the sexy bits.
eyesores: its incoherent storytelling.

“As he played, his member became erect.”

What. The. Fuck.

I know nothing of Klaus Kinski, aside for what Werner Herzog told us in ‘Mein liebster Feind’. My only impression of him is that he was erratic, megalomaniacal, perhaps even mad. My only pull to this film was that it was Kinski’s directorial debut and final film before his death.

I also knew nothing of Niccolò Paganini going in. Oh, I had heard the name floating around, but that was about it. And, having now watched Kinski’s biopic, I still know barely anything about Paganini – there’s far less in this picture than there is on the famed violinist’s Wiki page.

Of course, when I say “biopic”, I mean it in the loosest sense of the term possible: It’s about a historical figure, it takes place in the period, and it seems to echo some of his life. But the fact is that ‘Paganini’ is not so much a motion picture as it is an extended music video for his music.

For nearly all of 81 minutes, we are treated to Pagnini’s greatest compositions (as performed by Salvatore Accardo, world renowned for his performances and recordings of Paganini’s pieces since the tender age of 13) backed by a vast array of random footage cut together without form.

I couldn’t possibly be more serious.

While we eventually discover that some of the footage is chronological, and gives us a vague account of Paganini’s relationship with his son, most of it is seemingly jumbled images of Kinski/Paganini playing the violin for extended periods of time with inserts chucked in.

See women become enraptured, caressing themselves while hearing Paganini play in concert. See Paganini have sex with countless women. See women masturbating while thinking of him. See Paganini receive blowjobs. See random women moaning. See Paganini sodomize a lustful virgin.

Basically, it’s Paganini as rock star.

It is said that Kinski saw parallels between himself and Paganini, so it’s not at all surprising that he would make the film’s central figure a misunderstood demigod. After all, Kinski wrote, directed and starred in the picture; he didn’t lack ego or confidence in his abilities.

Well, in this case he overextended greatly.

‘Paganini’ is ineptitude in celluloid form: Half of the shots are out of focus, the incessant inserts add nothing to the story, the dubbing is terrible (all three languages, although Italian was a bit better). It’s an incoherent, rambling mess, that resorts to overdubs to explain itself.

I mean, seriously, was there even a script?

Watch Paganini wander about Vienna in slo-mo. Watch Paganini fight with his girlfriend and then go to town and eat, eat, eat, endlessly. Watch Paganini ready his son for bed. Watch Paganini play for passersby for money. Watch a Priest intrude into Paganini’s home and look around.

And, finally, watch one final fit of violin overindulgence before Paganini’s death.

So, what did I take from ‘Paganini’, in the end?

  1. He may have been jailed for murder.
  2. He slept around.
  3. Though rich, he was always worried about money.

That’s it. Otherwise I have no more understanding of the subject than I did going in.

Frankly, I can’t explain why I didn’t despise this film. Was it the music? Was it the sex? Was it the mesmerizing quality of any trainwreck? I don’t know. I just know that I was entertained, much in the same way that one is entertained watching an endless stream of music videos.

Except that this is just one, 80-minute, music video.

My advice: Get the soundtrack instead.

Story: 1.0
Acting: 2.5
Production: 3.5

Nudity: 2.5
Sexiness: 2.5
Explicitness: 4.0

Date of viewing: July 3, 2016

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