PASSION (Peter Duncan) presents the peculiar life of Australian composer-pianist Percy Grainger (Richard Roxburgh), who was raised to be a Byronic hero-genius by his ambitious mother (Barbara Hershey). Grainger is remembered as a folk song composer who transcribed sea shanties and songs like In An English Country Garden for the piano. But there's a lot more to him, from the unhealthiest mother fixation this side of Norman Bates to perverse sexual tastes.Passion is set shortly before the first world war, when Grainger lived in England, agonized about his concerts and discovered his mother's dark secret. Tortured-genius movies tend to overload the narrative with so much sensation that they come off as lurid as tabloid TV. But this one is more elegantly shot and the acting is more convincing than usual.
For those interested in Grainger's music, Marc-André Hamelin has a fine collection of the solo piano pieces on Hyperion (CDA66884), and there's a stunning live recording of Grainger playing the Grieg Concerto on Biddulph (LHW 041). Opens Friday (March 16) at the Bloor. See Rep Cinemas, page 98. 102 minutes. Rating: NNN