Ken Russell

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2 years ago with 10 notes

Via kaffeinebuzz

Tagged: Ann Margret Texts


Ken Russell, Director Fond of Provocation, Dies at 84
While most may know this controversial director for the 70s cult classic, “Tommy,” his repertoire reaches far beyond the land of the Pinball Wizard. I found many of his films on Netflix, including one of my favorite William Hurt movies, “Altered States” (1980) and another starring Michael Caine, “Billion Dollar Brain.”
[NY Times]
“Ken Russell, the English filmmaker and writer whose outsize personality matched the confrontational brashness of his movies, among them ‘Women in Love’ and ‘The Devils,’ died on Sunday at his home in Lymington, England. He was 84.
Mr. Russell’s feature-film career began with a couple of lightweight genre assignments, the romantic comedy “French Dressing” (1964) and ‘Billion Dollar Brain’ (1967), a spy movie with Michael Caine. But it took off with “Women in Love,” a sensuous period piece that connected with the liberated sexual politics of the late ’60s. Although the film was generally well reviewed and a mainstream success — it earned Mr. Russell his one Academy Award nomination for best director and Glenda Jackson an Oscar for best actress — it was also the first glimpse of his flair for provocation.
 ‘Women in Love’ became infamous for an extended wrestling scene between the two male stars, Oliver Reed and Alan Bates, that showed full-frontal nudity. It made it past the British censorship board only after Mr. Russell agreed to trim a few shots, though nudity remained.”
Read more…


Ken Russell, Director Fond of Provocation, Dies at 84

While most may know this controversial director for the 70s cult classic, “Tommy,” his repertoire reaches far beyond the land of the Pinball Wizard. I found many of his films on Netflix, including one of my favorite William Hurt movies, “Altered States” (1980) and another starring Michael Caine, “Billion Dollar Brain.”

[NY Times]

Ken Russell, the English filmmaker and writer whose outsize personality matched the confrontational brashness of his movies, among them ‘Women in Love’ and ‘The Devils,’ died on Sunday at his home in Lymington, England. He was 84.

Mr. Russell’s feature-film career began with a couple of lightweight genre assignments, the romantic comedy “French Dressing” (1964) and ‘Billion Dollar Brain’ (1967), a spy movie with Michael Caine. But it took off with “Women in Love,” a sensuous period piece that connected with the liberated sexual politics of the late ’60s. Although the film was generally well reviewed and a mainstream success — it earned Mr. Russell his one Academy Award nomination for best director and Glenda Jackson an Oscar for best actress — it was also the first glimpse of his flair for provocation.

 ‘Women in Love’ became infamous for an extended wrestling scene between the two male stars, Oliver Reed and Alan Bates, that showed full-frontal nudity. It made it past the British censorship board only after Mr. Russell agreed to trim a few shots, though nudity remained.

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2 years ago with 1 note

Via notiziegaytum

Tagged: Texts

E’ morto Ken Russell, il regista «scandaloso» di Tommy e L’altra faccia dell’amore


Si è spento a 84 anni il regista britannico Ken Russell. Regista considerato scandaloso per l’alto tasso di provocazione contenuto nei suoi film: dopo il grande successo di «Donne in Amore» nel 1969, tratto dal romanzo di David Herbert Lawrence, per il successivo «I Diavoli» con Vanessa Redgrave e Oliver Reed venne accusato di blasfemia.

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4 years ago with 1 note

Via paulcibis

Tagged: The Devils Texts


If you live in LA and you consider yourself a film person, you should really do yourself a favor and check out this screening of Ken Russell’s “The Devils” on August 20th at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica.  You might not be able to tell from the silly 1970s trailer above, but this movie is a masterpiece and must be seen to be believed.  I’m not entirely sure how to explain “The Devils” except to say that it’s kind of a historical horror film/surrealist frenzy about the collision of religion, obsession, hysteria, and politics in 17th Century France.  Maybe that sounds enticing to you, maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know.  It says right in the trailer that “this movie is not for everyone” and they’re not kidding.  It’s a very disturbing, weird, transgressive movie, but I assure you that it is excellent and you will not forget it.

“The Devils” features tremendous performances from Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed, elaborate production design, and some of the best cinematography you’ll ever see.  This is a movie that has to be seen on the big screen.  Seriously, it has to because there still hasn’t been a proper region 1 DVD release (Criterion, what the fuck are you waiting for?).  Assuming that the Aero is screening the same print I saw a few years ago at The Egyptian, you will not be disappointed.  This is a rare opportunity to see a near forgotten masterpiece of 1970s cinema in the best presentation possible.  It’s the kind of thing that makes living in Los Angeles worthwhile.  Take advantage!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!:  The director, Ken Russell himself, will be at this screening to answer question after the film.  This is great news because 1) You WILL have questions! and 2) Ken Russell has a reputation for being a crotchety nut, so there should be some fireworks.

It should also be mentioned that after “The Devils”, there will be a screening of Russell’s more widely seen film “Altered States”, also known as “That movie where William Hurt turns into a monkey.”  It should also be mentioned that “Altered States” is kind of dumb.  

You can read more about this wonderful and rare cinematic event, and buy tickets, here:


4 years ago with 2 notes

Tagged: Texts Lindsay Anderson Ken Russell Stanley Kubrick

If you want to make films like Stanley Kubrick and Lindsay Anderson all you need to do is do what they did — study the rare early films by Ken Russell

In July, 2007, to honour the eightieth birthday of Ken Russell, the National Film Theatre in London unearthed thirty-seven films Ken Russell had made for television. Twenty-nine of them were made between 1958 and 1966. Many of the films were quite unknown, screened once on late-night television forty and more years ago. Almost all were shot on 35mm.
The discoveries from watching these films were many and profound, especially to those of us who thought we had a good working knowledge of the Great British Film Canon.
To test your knowledge of the best of made-in-Britain cinema, I’m going to describe scenes from five films made in England in the 1960s. Can you name the film and the filmmaker?

1. A young man who has decorated his rooms with collages, pictures torn from magazines, that serve as a visual metaphor for his thoughts and feelings, takes pot shots with an imitation hand-gun, and mimes a violent game with a cool, almost mute, un-named girl.

2. A portrait of a uniquely British community, full of strange rituals, climaxes with a pompous leader giving a condescending speech from the stage. An emergency happens and the audience starts to flee, but the speaker, lost in a sense of their own self-importance, continues with their oratory.

3. In daylight, a man strikes something with a bone. The scene changes to darkness and we see a machine of the future which speaks with the voice of a man. The machine breaks down and sings a song which was popular in the 1920s.

4. The villain of this film is a wheelchair riding German, dressed all in black, including black gloves and black glasses.

5. A dashing young Swinging Sixties photographer zooms around London in a flashy car as he moves between on-location photo-journalism and fashion-shoots in his own apartment. Clue — the photographer is played by a David H.

If you answered Lindsay Anderson’s if…. for the first two; Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Dr Strangelove for the third and fourth; and the late great Antonioni’s Blow Up for the fifth, you’d be surprised to learn they were all scenes in films made by Ken Russell. The first and fourth are from Ken Russell’s Pop Goes The Easel (1961); the second scene is in Russell’s The Miner’s Picnic (1960); the bone-to-the-future leap was first done in Ken Russell’s The Preservation Man (1962), although when watching the film you have to read the scene literally and think like Kubrick to spot the connection, but the connection, or the spark, is undoubtedly there. In Russell’s Preservation Man, the song sung by the machine is not about Daisy Daisy and her bicycle made for two but the fantasy piece ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (which, for a time, served as Russell’s signature tune. He used it throughout Women in Love). The bone being wielded in Russell’s film is being used bang out a tune on a bicycle. The tune is ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’, which all of you know is the theme and the subtext of Stanley Kubrick’s great film. The hip photographer in the fifth description was not David Hemmings in Blow Up but David Hurn in Russell’s stunning 1964 film, Watch The Birdie.
Unearth buried treasure and the Canon of Truth changes.
What the BFI’s Ken Russell season effectively did was unearth the syllabus for The Secret Lindsay Anderson and Stanley Kubrick Film School. Ken Russell’s were the films on which they found their themes and built their style.
When I edited Lindsay Anderson’s Diaries for publication, I remember being surprised to read in his own hand that he had been impressed by a something he’d seen on television. It was his habit to denigrate the work of his contemporaries. In his diary he wrote: “Saw Pop Goes The Easel again last night. Awfully impressive.”
The scenes I’ve outlined from Russell’s impressive film — a portrait of four pop artists which not only sets the artists and their art in their environment but which, in several astonishing dream sequences takes us into the artist’s minds — the collage metaphors, the imitation gun, the mime with The Girl, the speech from the stage — were not in David Sherwin’s original if…. script. They’re Anderson additions, added in after he watched, and re-watched, Ken Russell’s films.
Lindsay was never quite confident about his own abilities as a filmmaker, or rather as a visual filmmaker. The theme of this failing he turns to again and again in his diaries particularly when he is documenting the day-to-day creation in 1972 of ‘O Lucky Man!’. If…. had been a joy to make because his working relationship with his director of photography, Miroslav Ondricek, had been strong. Anderson had brought Ondricek over to England from Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia, because Ondricek’s work for Milos Forman (Konkurs, Black Peter, The Fireman’s Ball) had the right mix of the realistic and the poetic (a feature of all of Russell’s early televsion work) that Anderson was seeking. Ondricek’s artistry covered for what Anderson thought were his own failings. O Lucky Man! was a less harmonious shoot because, in the interim, in the words of Roy Baird, if….’s associate producer, Ondricek had become ‘grand’. If…. had taken Ondricek to Hollywood, and what on if…. had been a keenness for cheap Arriflex cameras and an eagerness for creative improvisation, had become an insistance on expensive Panavision equipment and an attitude that said to the director ‘I know what is best.’ Lindsay was hurt partly because he knew in his heart of hearts that Miroslav Ondricek did in fact know what was best. But a director can’t play second-fiddle to his D.P. so he didn’t hire Ondricek for his next film, In Celebration (1974). Instead Lindsay Anderson went back to his secret film school and ‘poached’ his mentor’s cameraman. Ken Russell’s films had all the visual flair he felt his own were lacking. The trouble was, after persuading Russell’s regular D.P., Dick Bush, to leave the set of Tommy to work for him instead, he was crestfallen when, on day one of In Celebration, it became clear to him that the man responsible for the great visuals on Ken Russell’s films was not Russell’s D.P. but Ken Russell himself.
Which takes me nicely on to Stanley Kubrick, whose own DPs have stated that Stanley was almost entirely responsible for the visuals on his own films.
Do you remember the trailer for Kubrick’s The Shining, the music by Bartok and the camera in close-up on the bald head and wide open eyes of a late middle-aged man who has the power of visions? Ken Russell’s 1964 film of Bartok is built around that very same image, a poetic film constructed around the fantastical visions of a bald headed man with strange staring eyes. Kubrick even uses the same piece of music by Bartok. The glorious leap in style between the films Kubrick made in America and the films he made in Britain is so great it goes beyond the bounds of ordinary artistic development. How did he make such a leap from the primitive style of The Killing to the glory that is 2001? Was he abducted by a higher intelligence? In a sense, he was.

These are the hallmarks of the mature Stanley Kubrick film style:

1. Long sequences playing silently except for classical music on the soundtrack.
This technique came to full fruition with the waltzing spaceships in 2001. The technique was pioneered by Ken Russell for The Debussy Film (1965), which only really comes to life when Russell turns down the talky soundtrack and lets whole sequences of five minutes or more play as an accompaniment to the music on the soundtrack. The final scene of The Debussy Film is set to music from Debussy’s opera, The Fall of the House of Usher. In it, Debussy, played by Oliver Reed, is brooding in a lonely mansion which is being closed up. Each subtle change in his body language is echoed in the music on the soundtrack. There are achingly beautiful compositions as the stark light changes in a huge room where a woman is closing the shutters over ranks of floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s everything The Shining and Barry Lyndon should have been. Do you remember the spectacularly wonderful scene in 2001 of an actor running round a circular corridor that seems never ending? Running round an unending circular corridor was first seen in Russell’s Pop Goes The Easel, in the very same sequence that inspired Dr. Strangelove, though the actor in Russell’s run is running for her life, trapped inside her own nightmare. In the Russell film, the run round a curling corridor is a pulse-racing chase shaped by jolting jumpcuts. There’s an orchestral shot in one Russell’s BBC films of the inside of an inflight war-plane as the huge bomb doors open.

2. Sequences cut to ‘quick’ music with the quick cuts coming on each pulse beat of the score.
Kubrick did this brilliantly in A Clockwork Orange, speeding up the image and the soundtrack for comedic effect for a sex scene cut to The William Tell Overture, and in sequences cut to Pop Art images to create, for example, the famous scene of The Dancing Christs. Creating musical collages out of Pop Art images was, of course, done by Ken Russell in 1961’s Pop Goes The Easel. And the year before that landmark film, Ken Russell made what I’m sure is the best ten-minute film ever made in Great Britain, a musical collage called London Moods — a celebration of life, and a critique of brutalist modernism, which includes repeating Pop Art images dancing along to a jazzy musical score that moves from the great bells of St. Paul’s to astonishing bridges-and-buses compositions filmed from the waterway of The Thames.

3. Scenes starting with a close-up on a detail and the camera pulling back to set the detail in context within the wider picture.
This has long been a staple of good film making but Stanley Kubrick uses it so often in Barry Lyndon, starting and ending scene after scene with it, that it the sets the film’s mood, pace and rhythm. Many of Russell’s BBC films employ the technique, often when using still photographs, such as in his 22-minute 1960 film Journey into a Lost World. But it is the shot which concludes Russell’s 1959 miniature, Variations on a Mechanical Theme that seems to have the most effect on Kubrick. Russell’s shot is so graceful and grand — the camera pulling back from a detail on a seaside pier — that it almost certainly inspired the fourth hallmark of the Stanley Kubrick film style:

4.The long tracking shot away from the subject and along a parallel line.
This is the shot with which Kubrick opens A Clockwork Orange and uses to set scene after scene in The Shining.

Russell’s influence on Stanley Kubrick continued, of course, when Ken Russell moved into making feature films. After seeing what many believe is Russell’s masterpiece, The Devils (1971), a film which has still never been screened in anything like its original form in America, Stanley Kubrick tried to do-an-Anderson and hire away members of Russell’s main crew. David Watkin, The Devils’s Director of Photography, and Derek Jarman, Russell’s production designer, were both approached by Kubrick but both stayed loyal to Russell, to photograph The Boyfriend (1971) and to design Savage Messiah (1972) respectively. When Stanley Kubrick was preparing to make Barry Lyndon, he phoned Ken to ask about the locations he had used for The Music Lovers. Russell told him and was pleased to note that Stanley used every one of them.
It is to Ken Russell’s great credit that his pioneering 35mm BBC films were made on budgets that would blush the cheeks of Poverty Row producers. £300 for the first of them, a ten-minute film with John Betjeman — an on-location film essay on architectural space and the human condition — rising to £13,500 for the almost feature-length film about Isadora Duncan (1966), the film which made Vivian Pickles into a star. Her astonishingly rich performance as a pioneering artist who refuses to be crushed drew prolonged and spontaneous applause at the film’s 2007 London screenings. With their greater budgets, longer shooting schedules and more intellectual approach to filmmaking, Anderson, Antonioni and Kubrick took cinema in Britain to new heights. But because of the good work done by archivists mining the seams at the British Film Institute, we now know the name of the giant on whose shoulders they stood.

(c) Paul Sutton, 2007 


4 years ago

Tagged: Texts Ken Russell Bernard Rose

Hi Ken, sorry I stole your movie - Bernard Rose

Ken Russell is already there when I enter the restaurant. He’s hard to miss, with his big features and shock of thick white hair. At first he seems wary; Russell is an easy target for critics because he wears his heart on his sleeve. He knows I’m a film-maker, but wants me to tell him what I’ve done. I mention Candyman, Ivans XTC. He smiles pleasantly, and asks me to carry on. I tell him I shot Immortal Beloved, a Beethoven biopic with Gary Oldman. Russell fixes me with his steely blue eyes. “I’ve hated you for years,” he says. “I was going to make that movie. I had Anthony Hopkins: he even got into the costume. That was before the project fell apart.”

François Truffaut once said that if you love a man’s work, you love all of it. That’s how I feel about Ken Russell. Of the British directors active in the 1960s and 1970s who inspired me, Nic Roeg and Jim Henson were mentors in a very direct way (I worked for them), while Stanley Kubrick and Lindsay Anderson were remote, mythical figures. But Russell was my hero, the heir to Michael Powell’s peculiarly emotional Englishness and vivid visual rhapsodies. And, sadly, a controversial figure more loved abroad than here.

The first Ken Russell film I saw was his Mahler biopic. It begins with a long shot of a wooden hut built on the side of a lake; birds tweet, the sun shines, nothing happens - until, without reason or warning, the hut is consumed by a sudden explosion of fire in time to the chilling music of Mahler. I know of no other director who would conceive of beginning a picture like that, although Francis Ford Coppola later ripped it off, brilliantly, for the opening of Apocalypse Now. Mahler concerns itself with the normal stuff of biography: childhood, loves, religion, family tragedy, but is devoid of a conventional plot. What drives it is the music - bawdy, vulgar, violent, sweeping, cloying, stunning music set to pictures that switch from naturalistic drama to pastiche, fantasy and history.

Russell’s main concern is the struggle of the artist to create, the courage it requires to devote one’s life to art, and the tragedy that often results. He elevates the artist to heroic status, and denigrates traditional heroics as violence and oppression. The quintessential Russell sequence is in Savage Messiah: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, the young sculptor, more drunken punk than working artist, lies to a Bond Street gallery owner at a dinner party about a brilliant neo-classical marble torso he has supposedly made. The gallery-owner agrees to come to Gaudier’s studio to view the non-existent piece. Gaudier then rushes from the party, heads to a cemetery, steals a hunk of marble off a tombstone, lugs it home and spends all night chiselling. When morning comes and the gallery owner fails to show, Gaudier drags the statue down to the gallery in a barrow and hurls it through the window. As his friends bail him out of jail, he complains: “I don’t want to get off - if I get off it means I didn’t do anything!” To me, as a teenager who wanted desperately to make movies, this felt like a credo I could get behind. I adopted Russell as my hero.

I knew about Russell’s aborted Beethoven movie. In his autobiography, A British Picture, a new edition of which is published this week, he describes a project called The Beethoven Secret, a film that would use the unknown recipient of a letter Beethoven wrote to his “immortal beloved” as a mechanism for telling his story. Russell also describes a colourful character called Denny, a man who built a shrine to Russell’s movies in the backyard of his LA home. Denny is in fact Leonard Pollack, a costume designer I worked with on Candyman. There was a copy of H C Robbins Landon’s biography of Beethoven in Pollack’s shrine, the copy Russell had used to research his planned version. I…#65279; read it, and became hooked on the idea of making a film about Beethoven.

So, although I didn’t have the courage to say so, I did steal Immortal Beloved from him. I even tried to hire Anthony Hopkins, and I did hire Peter Suschitzky (who shot Russell’s Lisztomania) to be my director of photography. But when I was shopping the idea around with studio executives, I constantly had to promise the movie would be nothing like one of Russell’s. Under the table my fingers were firmly crossed. The execs wanted the new Amadeus, little realising that that film owes something to Russell. A scene in his Song of Summer, where the blind and paralysed Delius dictates music to his young amanuensis, Eric Fenby, is exactly replicated in Amadeus, when Mozart, sick and dying, dictates his Requiem Mass to Salieri.

What I do say is: “Sorry if I pinched Immortal Beloved off you. Anyway, it got terrible reviews.” This makes Russell smile, and quote Lisztomania: “‘Time kills all critics’ - which leads me on to Alexander Walker.”

Walker, the London Evening Standard’s film critic, hated Russell’s films with a pathological fervour, a hatred that climaxed in a live TV showdown where Russell hit Walker over the head with a rolled-up Standard. Russell says: “I was foolish enough to write to the editor of the Standard and suggest that Walker was not reviewing my work fairly and could he have someone else review my films. The editor took offence, printed my letter, and announced that, even though Walker was on holiday, he was going to fly him back to review my latest film. He hated it, of course.” I remind Russell of Ingmar Bergman’s theory about critics: “One must remember that they have their public, too.” He laughs; he likes that.

Russell remains prolific. By his own definition an “unbankable” director, he has returned to his roots. Working with new technology, including a home camcorder, he has in the past few years made The Fall of the Louse of Usher, A Kitten for Hitler and Boudica. He is planning Bravetart Versus the Loch Ness Monster. There’s a bawdy 19th-century bohemian quality to these late works that is hard to resist, but of course none of them has received any conventional distribution. Russell and I both agree on this issue: it no longer matters. Ten minutes from now, everything will be on the internet.

He tells me about a planned biography of Russian composer Scriabin. “I want giant bells hanging from clouds. A couple making love on a giant bed. Of course, it’s too expensive to do. I did it as a radio play with Oliver Reed. I’d love to make it as a film.” I ask if he ever applied to the Film Council for a grant and Russell replies sadly: “I did, but they just treat me like some kind of joke.” It’s a shame they don’t recognise Russell’s importance. If the UK Film Council don’t want to fund his work, they should at least put him forward for a knighthood. If they don’t, I’ve a good mind to wheel a barrow of Ken Russell films to their offices and, like Gaudier, hurl the cans one by one through the plate glass windows. Cans that bear the names Women in Love, Elgar, Song of Summer, The Music Lovers, The Devils, Savage Messiah, Mahler, Lisztomania, Tommy, Altered States, Crimes of Passion, Salome’s Last Dance - the work of one of the greatest British directors of all time.

Guardian, September 2008


4 years ago with 2 notes

Tagged: Guardian Texts Ken Russell

Ken Russell’s top 10 movies of all time

Please, Professor Ken, I’m just starting a serious collection of DVD movie masterpieces. What are your Top Ten recommendations? And please don’t mention any of your own films, as we’ve already got them all, thanks to your generous discounted prices (laughter).”
“And please don’t mention horror films because we’ve got all those, too,” pipes up another voice in the film studies class I teach at Southampton University.
“That’s a tough one,” I reply. “I could give you a hundred titles off the top of my head, but ten — that’s something else. Ask me again, same time, next week.”
Seven days later, after sleepless nights and much inner conflict, I clear my throat and the oracle (with 77 years of movie-going stored in the fleapits of his mind) speaks: “ Metropolis, Citizen Kane, La Belle et la Bête, Gone with the Wind, La Strada, Fantasia, The Red Shoes, A Night at the Opera, The 39 Steps and a surprise last choice.”
Mutterings of dissent as they all wait for me to explain myself.
“ Metropolis, from 1927, was the first feature I showed in my Dad’s garage in aid of the Spitfire fund at the height of the Southampton Blitz,” I start cautiously. “It was the only feature available from the local film library with the same gauge as my old hand-cranked 9.5mm Pathescope projector. Despite the fact that it was shot in Germany by Fritz Lang, its friendly reception by the neighbourhood, while Nazi bombs rained down on our heads, proved that art has no frontiers. For a scary, breathtaking view of the future it has never been surpassed.”
“What about Blade Runner ?” someone asks. “Good,” I concede, “but it doesn’t have a robot as mind-blowing as the sex doll in Metropolis .” At this stage a few previous sceptics start scribbling feverishly.
“Without a doubt,” I say, “ The Red Shoes , by the unique duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is the one and only film that has taken the secret world of professional ballet seriously. Based loosely on the impresario Diaghilev and the Russian Ballet, it got to the very heart and soul of the mysterious world of the dance, more than any film before or since. I skipped ballet class myself to see the premiere at the Odeon Haymarket in September 1948 and have watched it regularly, enthralled, ever since. And the music by Brian Easdale is magnificent, as is the stunning photography of Jack Cardiff.”
Mumblings and grumblings accompany this choice, together with a few shouts of “What about Singin’ in the Rain, Guys and Dolls, 42nd Street, Funny Face?” — from which I gather that classical ballet is not everyone’s cup of tea. Someone shouts “ Grease!” but I rise above it.
Citizen Kane, my next choice, is greeted with semi-reluctant grunts of approval. “This exuberantly innovative masterpiece by Orson Welles, premiered in 1941, is pretty high on everyone’s Top Ten list. Photography, art direction, editing, script, music, acting and direction are all inspired and near perfection. What more do you want?”
Gone with the Wind, from 1939, my next selection, is greeted with remarks such as “boring”, “sentimental”, “schmaltzy”, “Hollywood!” “What’s wrong with Hollywood?” I say. “Where else but Hollywood could such an epic even be attempted? The spectacle, the sets, the scale — what an achievement. Victor Fleming, George Cukor and Sam Wood directing. And the superb acting, particularly that of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. And those one-liners: Rhett Butler’s ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’; Scarlett’s vow to ‘never go hungry again’ — her message to the modern world, now choc-a-bloc with millions of thankful obese, celebrating her every word.
“And if you find that epic somewhat overblown,” I continue, “what about Fellini’s La Strada as an antidote? Filmed in black and white and released in 1956, this story of a couple of strolling players, down on their luck but up in their spirits, is truly captivating. The sad moonface of Giulietta Masina (Fellini’s wife) haunts the memory, as does the soulful musical score by Nino Rota with that haunting melody, once heard, never forgotten.
“Now to Fantasia, Walt Disney’s 1940 cartoon masterpiece. Who else could get spellbound ticket-paying audiences to sit through the music that caused sophisticated Parisian first-nighters to riot, upon hearing the most barbaric pieces of music ever written? I’m referring to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. And who else could delight cinema audiences with hippos dancing with bubbles and sexy lady minotaurs pirouetting to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony? Pity it was just a one-off.” (Jeers of “Mickey Mouse !” I ignore.)
“And my next choice is a director we all know and love,” I say, whereupon everyone shouts out, “William Wyler, Scorsese, Chabrol, Michael Winner, George Romero, you, sir! [a crawler], Kazan, Hitchcock . . .” “Right! Hitchcock,” I echo. Cheers all around; cries of “Psycho, North by Northwest, The Lodger, Vertigo …”
“Personally, I’ll go for The 39 Steps, released in 1935. For wit and suspense it’s hard to beat. Don’t you love the tagline: ‘Handcuffed to the girl who double-crossed him’?” “Kinky,” comes a rascal voice, chorused by muffled laughter. I use the big voice this time: “And weren’t Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll superb as reluctant bedmates?
“And for all of you who hate opera,” I continue, “how about A Night at the Opera , made in 1936 and featuring the Marx brothers? It’s guaranteed to convert you. OK, so some lines are corny, but I love ’em. For instance, when they are arguing over a singer’s contract: ‘That’s in every contract,’ says Groucho; ‘that’s what they call a Sanity Claus.’ ‘Aw, you can’t fool me,’ quips Chico, ‘there ain’t no Sanity Claus.’
“We’re getting near the end,” I mutter, “but we must have an example of French cinema.” A shower of hands shoots up. “L’Atalante , Jules et Jim , Les Enfants du Paradis , Les 400 coups ,” they beg.
“All very commendable,” I say, “but I’d choose La Belle et la Bête by Jean Cocteau, featuring Jean Marais and Josette Day — a fairytale for all ages, released in 1947. I saw it last with my five-year-old daughter and as it came to its magical finale, we were both crying our eyes out.” Smirks all round.
“And now I come to my tenth and final choice,” I announce. All is still as they hope for their personal favourites. “And the tagline for this one,” I say, “is ‘The blonde leading the blonde’. Yes, it’s Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino in the surprise hit of 1997, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion . And my reasons are …” Alas, my reasons are drowned in hoots and howls of ribald laughter.
On my way home I dropped in at the local library for a quick pick-me-up, but all the fun titles were out. Then a bright orange DVD package caught my eye, entitled Bamako , only just released and directed by a name to conjure with — Abderrahmane Sissako. The cover showed an attractive African girl crying into a microphone. Oh well, you never know.
That evening I had a revolutionary lesson in contemporary film-making. I realised that one of my Top Ten would have to go.

Ken Russell – Guardian Agosto, 2007


4 years ago with 1 note

Via ladyspiggott

Tagged: Alteres States Texts William Hurt

Ken Russell: Re-Viewing England’s Last Mannerist


“In films of this genre sub-type, the dramatis personae easily, and in trademark Russell fashion, glide between alternate realities, often quite indiscernibly to audiences. There is often no traditional scene transition between these parallel “modes” of reality and fantasy. The phantasms of the unconscious and subconscious mind are often physically externalized as tangible and tactile. Furthermore, state-of-the-art special effects breakthroughs create these fantasy domains (in miniature, in matte paintings, etc.), just as in Altered States.”

John Kenneth Muir’s Reflections on Film/TV


4 years ago with 2 notes

Via georgecorkland

Tagged: Georgina Hale Mahler Robert Powell Videos Texts


The surrealistic funeral scene from `faction’ film Mahler directed by Ken Russell. Some say that Mahler had a fear of being buried alive but as far as I am aware there is no evidential historical fact to support this and I imagine it was a fear that manifested itself in many mortals a few hundred years ago. Nevertheless this take on Mahler ‘s life is especially worth watching not only for giving an insight to Mahler and his superb music but also into the weird and wonderful mind of Ken Russell. The whole film can be watched on Youtube in twelve parts, but at least there are no commercial breaks!

Quote from Wiki ‘The film begins on a train journey with Gustav Mahler (Robert Powell) and his wife Alma (Georgina Hale) confronting their failing marriage. The story is then recounted in a series of flashbacks (some of which are surrealistic and nightmarish), taking one through Mahler’s turbulent childhood, his brother’s suicide, his experience with anti-semitism, his conversion from Judaism to Catholicism, his marital problems, and the death of his young daughter


4 years ago with 10 notes

Via weirdscaryandusualstuff

Tagged: Lair of the White Worm Texts


From my weird movie drawer: The lair of the white worm (1988)

DIRECTED BY: Ken Russell

FEATURING: Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis, Stratford Johns

PLOT:  An archeology student visiting the British countryside digs up an elongated skull he assumes belongs to an dinosaur while excavating the site of a buried convent, now an English bed-and-breakfast run by two young sisters.  Lord James D’Ampton is the boyfriend of one of the sisters, and also the descendant of a legendary D’Ampton who reputedly slew a dragon (the “D’Ampton Worm”) that had terrorized the countryside.  After wintering in climes unknown, slinky and regal Lady March returns to her mansion and discovers the skull, after which strange events begin to transpire…


4 years ago with 6 notes

Via amazzyblaze

Tagged: Pete Townshend Ken Russell Texts

On the day I met Ken Russell I was strolling around London recording street noises in stereo for the Quadrophenia album. I had my tape machine in a suitcase and the mikes concealed in a holdall. At the time I was after ‘casual conversation.’ I saw an interesting group sidled sideways up to them pointing my holdall into their midst. The conversation I heard was fascinating. In the group were Ken Russell, Chris Stamp and Mike Carrearas, who were all unhappy that they hadn’t been able to locate me that afternoon for a meeting they were about to have. As you can imagine, I just felt all this meant that the film had to be.
— Pete Townshend (via amazzyblaze)