Madame Sousatzka

Clearly director-writer John Schlesinger and cowriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s bid to do for classical music more or less what The Turning Point did for ballet, this inspirational and tearful movie is at least enlivened by an appealing performance from Navin Chowdhry (who intermittently suggests the young John Derek) as a 15-year-old Indian piano prodigy studying under the eponymous eccentric, fussbudget teacher (Shirley MacLaine, apparently emboldened by her ’85 Oscar and assorted best-sellers to let all the stops out), who does her utmost to mold him. The film benefits more from Chowdhry and the agreeable secondary castShabana Azmi, Twiggy, Peggy Ashcroftthan from MacLaine, who has mainly abandoned the lightness that sparked her earlier work for a tic-ridden arsenal of pile-driver techniques as the cantankerous music teacher. There’s a subplot about greedy real estate development (with some glancing anti-Thatcher swipes), and the classical piecesby Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Schumann, among othersare nicely played and recorded (1988). (JR)

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