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May 19, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

If you should go to a theater showing Tchaikovsky’s Wife expecting from the title to hear much of the great composer’s music and to learn how his wife supported his career at great sacrifice and love, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Not a strain of the composer’s music is heard in Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov’s film, selected to compete at the Cannes Film Festival, as it focuses on a delusional woman, Antonina Miliukova, who fell in love with Tchaikovsky from afar and enticed him into marriage with promises of rescuing him from financial difficulties with her dowry and silencing rumors about his bachelor lifestyle. (The clueless Antonina never seems to grasp the fact that the man she loves is a homosexual who is repelled by her love.) It’s beautifully photographed and the performance by Alyona Mikhailova in the title role is first rate, but those assets do little to underpin the film, which slogs along for two and a half hours, presenting little or no insight into the woman’s psychotic behavior — although we are treated to many of her hysterical fantasies, never quite knowing whether what we are witnessing is supposed to be real. Daily Variety¬†critic Owen Gleiberman described the film as a “drama of dour and often impenatrable obscurity.” Likewise, Robbie Collin in the London Daily Telegraph, called it “psychologically opaque.” But Peter Bradshaw in Britain’s Guardian, gave the film a pass, contending that Serebrennikov’s “film-making inhales or intuits the characteristics of its subject, and so it becomes almost oppressively hysterical and highly strung.” Nevertheless, there is a term, used by Tchaikovsky himself for the title of what many regard as his greatest symphony, that could sum up the overall critical reaction to the film: “Pathetique.”