Paganini klaus kinski

Kinski Paganini (1989)

Paganini (1989) Directed by Klaus Kinski

Klaus Kinski’s feverishly tawdry nonsensical faux-biographical self-absorbed project about the seemingly diabolical virtuoso violinist Paganini was deemed unfilmable by Werner Herzog – the cineaste who was supposed to assume the directorial responsibility for Klaus Kinski’s ambitious screenplay – thus his filmmaking acumen prompted him to dismiss it and leave his loyal friend and eternal enemy on his own, marooned with his egocentric aspirations.

Kinski edited, wrote and directed this individualistic monument of artistic delirium and narcissistic derangement that portrays with deliberate historiographical inaccuracies the life of the mighty Italian violinist. Kinski plays Paganini yet all he channels with his freakishly indulgent performance is himself in a nonlinear absurdist reverie manifesting his romantic fascination with debauchery. It is the work of a madman, but an idiosyncratic madman so bestial and uncannily creative that his nefarious reputation incarnated in the quasi-fetishistic idealization of Paganini strikes one as mythological. “He’s an animal! Given the chance he would rape every girl he meets, especially the ones underage!” says one of the outraged judges seeking to censor and condemn the immorality of Kinski’s Paganini.

As per usual, Kinski is elated to play a character who engages in illicit sex; but the mere realization that it is he himself who is conducting this unintelligible opus of porn, music and tastelessness elevates the ordinary horniness into something intimately disturbing. Kinski turns his portrayal of Paganini into a masturbatory paean to his persona – women worship him, swoon at the sight of him and there isn’t a single one who doesn’t want to sleep with him…even little girls adore him, gross I know, but keep in mind it’s a Kinski movie; also, Kinski awkwardly kisses and inappropriately fondles his 13-year-old son, Nikolai Kinski, who plays Paganini’s son. The goals of this film are obvious, a whole Kinski film about Kinski feeding his hubris with sleaze, but what I still can’t quite fathom or decipher is the experimental association of the radical conceptualized form with the eccentric, mystical impressionism of the non-chronological storytelling, assuming there is one or that Kinski meant to provide one.

Paganini features a truly distorted baroque style of filmmaking. Yet it never fails to be a swirling marvel, a giddy cinematic accident that could only have sprung from the unholy mind of Kinski, who I believe is the only actor and filmmaker who has the innate impudence to wallow in his sins, confess them to his audience, and justify them in the shape of Paganini and the splendidly hellish musical mayhem of his instrument. This is the most confounding debut film I have ever seen, the last and only film Kinski directed is a mess, but a contemplative mess.


Matteo Bedon

Written by

Editor and Official Film Critic at

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