Passion (1999) from Tuna

Passion (1999) is a semi-biographical film about the Australian pianist, composer and musicologist Percy Grainger. It focuses exclusively on the event of 1914, when he was the toast of London. This was, of course, an ominous year, with war imminent, and Grainger was not a typical Londoner.  To begin with, although he was a grown man, he was totally devoted to his syphilitic mother/manager. On top of that, he was wont to wear homemade clothing which consisted entirely of toweling. Strangest of all, he used self-flagellation to help him concentrate, and as a sexual outlet. After he tried unsuccessfully to seduce his best friend's fiancee (Claudia Karvan), she lined him up with a piano student (Emily Woof) who would become his lover, assistant, confidante, and S&M partner.

The actors are excellent. Karvan and Woof were more than equal to the roles, and Richard Roxburgh nailed Percy Grainger. Barbara Hershey, as his mother, was too close to his age, but pulled off the characterization anyway with a strong performance.

The aim of the film is summed up in the title. Take away any of Grainger's passions, and he would not have been Grainger. Constraining the film to one year was a good move, in that it presented his character clearly and believably, without going on for hours. I suspect most viewers will want to know more about him when it is over.




Emily Woof shows her bum, her breasts in about a 3/4 frontal, and a faint hint of her pubes.

Scoop's additional notes in yellow


Rose Aldridge Grainger, Percy's mother, was 52 when 1914 began.  Barbara Hershey was 51 when Passion was released. She was, therefore, almost exactly the right age to play the role. The apparent problem with the age gap was not the result of hiring a mom too young, but rather a son too old. Roxburgh was 37 when the film was made, making him too old to be Hershey's son. When 1914 dawned the real Percy had been 31, the right age to be either Barbara Hershey's son or Rose Grainger's. The fact that Hershey and Roxburgh looked close enough in age to be lovers is actually not a problem at all. In fact, it conforms to reality. Although there was no evidence to support it, the standard gossip was that the mother and son were incestuous lovers, and it was the persistence of these rumors that eventually drove Rose to commit suicide in 1922. With her characteristic flair for the melodramatic, she jumped to her death from New York's Aeolian Building.

Directly after the events pictured in the film, the Guns of August were fired and England entered into World War 1. By September, Grainger had moved permanently to the US, where he soon became a citizen, and eventually became most famous for collecting, rearranging and popularizing folk music. One of Grainger's most notable achievements was his role in turning an obscure folk ballad named Air from County Derry into one of the most widely-recognized songs in the world. (It's now universally known as Danny Boy.)

His successes were by no means restricted to the field of music. Among his diverse and eclectic accomplishments, one of the most unusual was his invention of the sports bra, but his most unusual had to be the invention of a new form of purely Anglo-Saxon English stripped of all French, Latin, and Greek influences. (He would refer to himself not as a vegetarian, for example, but as a "meat-shunner.")


The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • No theatrical release in the USA

Miscellaneous ...

  • Percy Grainger's "official site." I don't know how official it really is, but it is filled with interesting material, including rare family photographs from Ella Grainger and Percy's estate.
  • An interview with director Peter Duncan. One of the most interesting things revealed in the interview is that Roxburgh and Woof prepared for their roles by undergoing real whippings from a professional dominatrix.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C.

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