Impromptu, 1991 – ★★★½ [Movie Log]

An impromptu, Chopin—aptly played by a young Hugh Grant, holding his own in the overpowering presence of the Judy Davis as the scandalous but fierce George Sand—should conceal its careful clockwork artistry so as to appear utterly spontaneous, unpredictable, and lively. It’s a shame, then, that IMPROMPTU feels so often so forced, so rarely alive with the genius the film is filled with, more like a meticulous and thoughtful exercise for nimble fingers than a performance stoked by a spark of genius. The elements and personages are here for something much more passionate and moving, truly great painters (Delacroix) and writers (Sand/Alfred du Musset) and composers (Chopin/Liszt) populating every scene, but the film too easily uses their talent to dress up its love story rather than dwelling on their art, their creativity, their aesthetic struggle in any significant way. The movie is rather explicit that only Chopin’s work matters here, even as the frail pianist himself is secondary to Sand, her own novels quickly cast aside and her renegade habiliments and habits neutered. So while this is a story that belongs to Sand—a life likely more interesting than any of the rest of her circle—it is Chopin who, by virtue of his immortal genius, becomes the star: A strange sort of cinematic fugue that unfortunately runs counter to the simplicity and clarity of Chopin’s actual musicality.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

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