Huffpost Arts
Debra Levine Headshot

Love Among the Geniuses

Posted: Updated:

2010-07-15-stravinsky.jpgTwo recent biopics portray the torrid love lives of great artists -- one of our favorite subjects.

First comes Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009), a chicly decorated French film about a purported love affair between the stern couturiere and equally rigorous modernist composer -- all while Mme Chanel hosts Stravinsky's wife and kids at her impeccably appointed country home. Hot stuff!

Then there's Mahler on the Couch (2010, not yet in distribution), a film that thrashes through the tempestuous times of the battling Mahlers. That would be composer Gustav and his wife, Alma, a girl who got around. And who drove her husband nuts.

The rapturously photographed, overly talky, but still enjoyable German film directed by Percy Adlon debuted at June's Los Angeles Film Festival. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Coco & Igor were for me a more entertaining couple than Gustav & Alma, but what do I know? My touchstone is Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
2010-07-15-mads_mikkelsen_99.jpg
Now, I'm all for suspension of disbelief. I want to believe everything!

But some of the casting in these two films is a bit .... um ... beyond the pale !

Igor Stravinsky, shown above, surely among the most brilliant if not the most gorgeous of men to inhabit our planet, gets as his unlikely doppelganger a virile Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen, at right. Yes, the pallored Igor Stravinsky as wild Scandinavian stud muffin.

And then in "Mahler on the Couch," we meet Viennese temptress Alma Mahler, widely reputed as an irresistible vixen in her era. Evidence: a list of lovers as long as your arm, one artier or more intellectual than the next, viz., Gustav Klimt, Alexander Zemlinsky, Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius, Dr. Paul Kammerer, Oskar Kokoschka, Franz Werfel, Johannes Hollnsteiner.

What a woman!2010-07-15-alma_1946_stravinsky.jpg

In the film, a 21st century Pilates-buffeted German actress, Barbara Romaner, gives an altogether splendid and sensual performance as the art-world hottie. You'd love to enjoy it ... if only you could suspend your disbelief! Okay, Alma Mahler was fast, but this actress is a speeding bullet.

Amazingly, in later years, Alma Mahler lived in Los Angeles. Life and Hitler led her here.

And here the story comes full circle -- could it portend a sequel? While in L.A., guess who Alma Mahler hung around with? Igor Stravinsky! The lovely duo shown in the photo at left in 1946.