DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Peter Warlock – Some Little Joy (2005)

The Anglo-Welsh composer and music critic did his music criticism under his actual name Philip Heseltine, but usually used the pseudonym Peter Warlock for his music.

Published on April 12, 2009

Peter Warlock – Some Little Joy (2005)

Peter Warlock – Some Little Joy (2005)

Director: Tony Britten
Starring: Mark Dexter, Lucy Brown, Georgina Rich
Studio: Capriol Films/Signum Vision SIGDVD002 [Distr. by Qualiton]
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: English DD 5.1, PCM stereo
No region code
Length: 88 minutes
Rating: ****

Peter Warlock is perhaps best known to most readers for his lovely little Capriol Suite for Strings.  The Anglo-Welsh composer and music critic did his music criticism under his actual name Philip Heseltine, but usually used the pseudonym Peter Warlock for his music after discovering early on that a publisher who refused to buy  his music did so when he submitted it under the pseudonym. He wrote many songs, though his career suffered many ups and downs due to making enemies over his outspokenness and his championing of two composers – Frederick Delius and the obscure Bernard Van Dieren.

Warlock led a short and wild life, some of whose aspects included interests in booze and beer, the occult, cannabis, dirty limericks, flagellation, and general hedonism.  He also suffered from severe depression, which was not helped by the music world generally failing to support his works.  This film is highly fictionalized and shouldn’t be regarded as an accurate portrayal of the composer’s life.  Another even more fictionalized film on Warlock was Voices From a Locked Room, and D.H. Lawrence’s use of Warlock as the model for one of his characters in his novel Women in Love precipitated a lawsuit with an out of court settlement.

There are several performances of some of his songs for solo voice and piano in the film, as well as of Warlock and his friends traveling to a pub to hear a singer of some English folk songs (although his music was not influenced by the folk song movement). He also wrote many carols, though according to the film he leaned toward pagan beliefs to Christianity.  There is an active Peter Warlock Society today, and a meeting of the group is shown at the beginning and end of the film. The composer’s womanizing is played up on the DVD cover with his ex-wife and two girlfriends behind him, but a short scene in the British bio is probably the most circumspect and proper visual portrayal of a menage-a-trois that has ever been filmed. At the end of the film it visually suggests that some sort of religious realization played a part in Warlock’s possible suicide, but the cause of his death by gas in 1930 is disputed.

The film was shot on hi-res video and well captures the 1920s bohemian spirit of Warlock and his associates.  Acting is quite good, and Warlock’s music is integrated into the story in more depth than most films on composers. It’s a teddibly British production however.

 - John Sunier




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