Il Boemo - FILM REVIEW

 In many ways, Il Boemo is not something unseen, a film that focuses on the rise and fall of a celebrity character. Yet, the likely ignorance of the viewer towards the character of Misliveček, largely forgotten, makes it a biopic - albeit stylistically underpolished - that raises most interest.

Belonging to the generation previous to Mozart, Czech composer Jozef Misliveček was among the most celebrated of his age. Nicknamed "il divino Boemo" - the divine Bohemian (in the ethnical meaning) - he lived a notorious life throughout Italy in the late 1700s, his operas were presented at the greatest theaters of the country, and would die forgotten and ill. Filmmaker Petr Václav - who has already directed a documentary on the staging of one of his operas - took up on himself to bring his life story to notoriety. In his representation, two elements remain central, two of his main "loves", one could say: the physical relationships and the ethereal relationship with music.

Although today Bohemien is associated with a lifestyle, and even though it is suggested in the film too that the Czech composer entertained a rather libertine private life, somehow Il Boemo never becomes a film that fully exposes or exploits the erotic potential of this (even though sex and nudity are persistent). It manages to maintain a veil of respect and the women Misliveček encounters are often fully fleshes out beyond their relationships as love/sexual interests. The film manages to slip in a few critical depictions of the patriarchal society of the XVIII century without too much didascalism, buolding an outstanding story arc to the character of Anna Fracassati, portrayed by Lana Vlady.

The historical accuracy is notable, the costumes, habits (rarely we see an accurate depiction of the behaviours of aristocrats dueing opera performances), settings are remarkably realistic, the accents of the italian cast mostly follows the dialectal differences between cities, the representation of operas and musical performances helds utmost accuracy on behalf of the non-musically trained cast members, including main character Vojtech Dyk - something often overlooked in classical music related films. Additionally, the operas feature the performances of a whole ensemble of outstanding opera singers, well known in the opera world, including soprano Emőke Baráth and countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. Featuring much of Misliveček's music that is rarely recorded, it provides an outstanding perspective for opera and classical music aficionados.
The historical context also features a series of cameos of important figures of the 1770s-1780s of the Italian and Habsburg Imperial history, monarchs, composers, and so on.

Il Boemo is however no Amadeus in grandeur or scope, or in polyshing. Cinematography does not often add enough value to the production design or the scenes, favouring too many mid-shots and handheld cameras rather to a more constructed work - on request of the director Vaclav himself. The result is a film with a period setting and a very dissonant contemporary découpage/editing style, that features jump cuts that serve solely to quicken the pace of the already long film. This does not however deduct from the cinematic awe featured by some scenes: Misliveček's return to Prague, or a sequence on a venetian Gondola engulfed by the mist, among others.

Even if flawed on some aspects, and unable to create the cinematically monumental celebration of the life and works of a forgotten artist that it strives to be, Il Boemo belongs to the more striking films of the year.

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