KEN RUSSELL (1927-2011)

Home // Forums // Movies // KEN RUSSELL (1927-2011)

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)
Created
6 years ago
Last Reply
6 years ago
15
replies
522
views
5
users
4
4
3
  • Scottferguson
    Participant
    Joined:
    Sep 26th, 2011
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44743

    One of the major figures of British cinema from the 1970s has died.

    Ken Russell, Controversial Director, Dies at 84
    By DENNIS LIM

    Ken Russell, the English filmmaker and writer whose outsize personality
    matched the confrontational brashness of his movies, died on Sunday. He
    was 84.

    He died after a series of strokes, his son, Alex Verney-Elliott, told The Associated Press.

    A polarizing figure who delighted in breaching the limits of propriety
    and cinematic good taste, Mr. Russell courted controversy through much
    of his career. His most popular film, the D.H. Lawrence adaptation
    “Women in Love” (1969), and his most notorious one, “The Devils” (1971),
    about a 17th-century outbreak of religious hysteria, both caused
    run-ins with censors.

    The flamboyance and intemperance of his movies were all the more notable
    coming at a time when British cinema and television were still largely
    known for the kitchen-sink style of social realism. During the ’70s, his
    most active decade as a feature film director, he made a series of
    artist biopics and rock operas that his supporters admired for their
    delirious excesses and that his detractors dismissed as vulgar kitsch.

    Mr. Russell’s career in feature films 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 — and took
    off with “Women in Love” (1969), 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 won
    Glenda Jackson an Oscar for best actress — it was also the first glimpse
    of his flair for provocation.

    “Women in Love” became notorious for an extended wrestling scene between
    the two male stars, Oliver Reed and Alan Bates, that featured
    full-frontal nudity and made it past the British censorship board only
    after Mr. Russell agreed to trim a few shots.

    “The Dance of the Seven Veils,” a caricatured television drama from
    1970, emphasized the connections of the composer Richard Strauss to the
    Third Reich. The Strauss estate withdrew the music rights, and the film,
    the last that Mr. Russell made for the BBC, remains suppressed to this
    day.

    His 1971 film “The Devils,” based on real events that had inspired a
    play by John Whiting and a book by Aldous Huxley, tells the grotesque
    story of demonic possession at a French convent, complete with exorcism
    rituals and blasphemous orgies. Mr. Russell, who converted to
    Catholicism in the 1950s, saw the film as an attack on the corrupt union
    of church and state.

    The American investors and the British censors called for cuts. The
    Catholic Church condemned the movie when it was screened at the Venice
    Film Festival. Even in its edited version, the film was banned by
    several local authorities in Britain; it was further trimmed in the
    United States to avoid an X-rating.

    Despite his affinity for classical music, Mr. Russell’s films had more
    in common with the flashy British rock scene of the day. This connection
    was made explicit with “Tommy” (1975), his frenzied film version of the
    Who’s rock opera and concept album. He combined classical and rock
    music in the follow-up, “Lisztomania” (1975),which starred the Who’s
    lead singer, Roger Daltrey, as Liszt and featured a cameo by Ringo Starr
    as the pope.

    Critics tended to welcome each new Ken Russell film as target practice.
    Reviewing “The Devils” in The New York Times, Vincent Canby called Mr.
    Russell “a hobbyist determined to reproduce ‘The Last Supper’ in bottle
    tops.” Pauline Kael called him a “shrill, screaming gossip.”

    Mr. Russell was not above fighting back. Appearing on live television
    shortly after the release of “The Devils” with the British critic
    Alexander Walker, who had denounced the film as “monstrously indecent,”
    Mr. Russell hit him on the head with a rolled-up newspaper.

    But even his staunchest critics would acknowledge that Mr. Russell left
    his mark on the medium. The nascent music-video aesthetic of the ’80s
    can be traced to the slick surfaces, rapid montage and voracious
    pastiche of his films (he lifted liberally from the likes of Fellini and
    Cocteau).

    He had a knack for casting ascendant stars (Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda
    Jackson) and he sought out talented collaborators: two of his ’60s films
    were scored by the French composer Georges Delerue; he hired the young
    Derek Jarman as a production designer on “The Devils.”

    Even in the prime of his career Mr. Russell cycled between hits and
    flops. Time and again he bounced back from critical and commercial
    disasters like “Lisztomania” and “Valentino.” He ventured into the
    American studio system with “Altered States” (1980), a hallucinogenic
    science-fiction film starring William Hurt. In his autobiography Mr.
    Russell revealed that he was hired by Warner Brothers only after 26
    other directors had passed on the project. He feuded with the
    screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, who took his name off the project, but
    “Altered States” earned him some of his best reviews and has since
    developed a cult following.

    Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell was born on July 3, 1927, in Southampton,
    England, the son of a shoe store owner. He described his childhood as a
    lonely one, with many an afternoon spent at the movies, alone or with
    his mother. As a teenager, he attended nautical school, where he claimed
    to have won over the bullies by putting on amateur productions of
    Dorothy Lamour musicals. He served briefly in the Merchant Navy and the
    Royal Air Force, then moved to London, where he studied dance before
    turning to photography in his late 20s.

    Mr. Russell’s work as a freelance photographer and filmmaker led in 1959
    to a job at the BBC, where he made dozens of arts documentaries, most
    notably a 1962 piece on Elgar, unusual at the time for its use of
    re-enactments. His other subjects included the composers Prokofiev and
    Debussy, the dancer Isadora Duncan and the painter Henri Rousseau.

    The fascination with genius, ambition and the creative process — and the
    project of making high culture accessible to a popular audience —
    continued in Mr. Russell’s later fictional features. Many of them take
    considerable liberties in exploring the lives and works of composers and
    artists: the Tchaikovsky biopic “The Music Lovers” (1970);“Savage
    Messiah” (1972), about the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska;
    “Mahler” (1974); “Lisztomania” (1975), which imagined Franz Liszt as the
    original pop superstar.

    Mr. Russell’s career never fully recovered from his 1984 flop, “Crimes
    of Passion,” although he managed one final provocation with “Whore”
    (1991). A drama about a Los Angeles prostitute, it was the last of his
    films to get a theatrical release in the United States, where it
    received an NC-17 rating and was released on video under the alternate
    title “If You Can’t Say It, Just See It.”

    But even with his directing career in eclipse, Mr. Russell kept busy
    with films and documentaries for British television, occasional acting
    roles and self-financed low-budget features like “The Fall of the Louse
    of Usher,” a 2002 horror spoof literally shot in his backyard. He wrote
    several novels — including a few on the sex lives of famous composers
    (“Beethoven Confidential,” “Brahms Gets Laid”) —and made his
    off-Broadway directing debut in 2008 with “Mindgame,” a play starring
    Keith Carradine.

    In Britain he remained a public gadfly into his 70s and 80s, appearing
    on television talk shows and writing a column for The Times of London.
    In 2007 he joined the cast of the reality TV series “Celebrity Big
    Brother” and left the show after getting into an argument with another
    house guest, Jade Goody.

    In a column in The Times in 2008 about a critical biography on him by
    Joseph Lanza titled “Phallic Frenzy,” Mr. Russell reflected on his
    longtime status as a critical punching bag. “I believe in what I’m doing
    wholeheartedly, passionately, and what’s more, I simply go about my
    business,” he wrote. “I suppose such a thing can be annoying to some
    people.”

    Reply
    Carbon Based Lifeform
    Participant
    Joined:
    Jun 20th, 2011
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44745

    A truly gifted and unique filmmaker, Ken Russell will be missed.

    Some of my favorite Ken Russell movies:
    WOMEN IN LOVE
    THE DEVILS
    THE MUSIC LOVERS
    CRIMES OF PASSION
    ALTERED STATES
    TOMMY

    ReplyCopy URL
    babypook
    Participant
    Joined:
    Nov 4th, 2010
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44746

    Oh no. Terrible news.

    I loved “Crimes of Passion”. I’d recommend that film to anyone.
    He was one of my favorites.

    RIP.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Vincent Yeoh (aka Vinny)
    Member
    Joined:
    Nov 6th, 2010
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44747

    I am surprised there are not more people commenting here. Anyway, even when it’s bad, a Ken Russell film still makes for an interesting watch. His The Boy Friend will always be special to me. It may not bear much resemblance to the stage version, but its two leads Twiggy and Christopher Gable were magical to watch.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Carbon Based Lifeform
    Participant
    Joined:
    Jun 20th, 2011
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44748

    ^Ken Russell, who is being ignored in favor of Oscar Bait season, deserves better.  In 1971, a year in which AIRPORT was nominated for Best Picture, the Academy managed to snub David Lean’s direction of RYAN’S DAUGHTER — a film AMPAS so otherwise appreciated as to award it two Oscars — and so we should be thankful the Academy at least managed to notice Ken Russell’s pitch-perfect direction of WOMEN IN LOVE, perhaps one of the best cinematic adaptations of a literary masterpiece, and a complicated, cerebral/sensual one at that.  Russell’s film also features a brilliant Oscar-nominated screenplay by Larry Kramer (adapting the book by D.H. Lawrence), stunning cinematography by Billy Williams, and a number of masterful, iconic performances by a talented cast, including Alan Bates, Oliver Reed, Eleanor Bron, and Glenda Jackson, who won an Oscar for her performance.

    ReplyCopy URL
    babypook
    Participant
    Joined:
    Nov 4th, 2010
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44749

    I just really loved his films. I even saw “Whore”, mostly for Theresa Russell. And I agree about “The Boyfriend”. What a marvel it was watching Twiggy.

    I lost track of him when he moved into television, but I did see his Sarah Brightman video.

    I’d like to believe that Ken Russell was the kind of director who will be looked at fondly and with respect in the years to come.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Scottferguson
    Participant
    Joined:
    Sep 26th, 2011
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44750

    Ryan’s Daughter was David Lean’s worst film – I resaw it a couple years ago. It was a lumbering collection of cliches highlighted by perhaps the worst performance ever to win an Oscar (the otherwise great John Mills). Trevor Howard’s priest was a stereotype beyond belief, the gorgeous Christopher Jones was awful, Robert Mitchum totally miscast. Though set in Ireland, it was entirely an English POV, patronizing and simplistic. And the expensive set felt like you could feel the ADs just out of sight telling the extras to burst out and be Irish.

    I actually prefer the totally crazed The Music Lovers (Russell’s follow up to Women in Love) to be honest as well as Tommy and Altered States to Women in Love..

    ReplyCopy URL
    Edwin Drood
    Participant
    Joined:
    Nov 27th, 2010
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44751

    I loved The Music Lovers also, though my favorite Russell film is The Devils (wish a director’s cut of this one existed).  One of my fave directors of all time…

    ReplyCopy URL
    babypook
    Participant
    Joined:
    Nov 4th, 2010
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44752

    Ryan’s Daughter was David Lean’s worst film – I resaw it a couple years ago. It was a lumbering collection of cliches highlighted by perhaps the worst performance ever to win an Oscar (the otherwise great John Mills). Trevor Howard’s priest was a stereotype beyond belief, the gorgeous Christopher Jones was awful, Robert Mitchum totally miscast. Though set in Ireland, it was entirely an English POV, patronizing and simplistic. And the expensive set felt like you could feel the ADs just out of sight telling the extras to burst out and be Irish.

    I actually prefer the totally crazed The Music Lovers (Russell’s follow up to Women in Love) to be honest as well as Tommy and Altered States to Women in Love..

    An interesting place to insert your oft oft oft repeated slam to another director’s work.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Scottferguson
    Participant
    Joined:
    Sep 26th, 2011
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44753

    Did you miss Pucifer bringing it up initially? Why not mention that he brought it up just as irrelevantly?

    And I have never slammed Lean’s overall work – you’re just making that up. I admire quite a few of his films. That’s the standard to which I am holding the inferior Ryan’s Daighter up to.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Carbon Based Lifeform
    Participant
    Joined:
    Jun 20th, 2011
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44754

    ^Not “irrelevantly,” IMO — I was making the point that in 1971, the Academy designated a trifle like AIRPORT (!!!) as one of the five Best Pictures of the year and also snubbed the great David Lean (although his film RYAN’s DAUGHTER won two Oscars that same year).  The point being that it seems miraculous to me that amidst such absurdities and lapses in judgment, the Academy at least managed to notice (could not ignore?) Ken Russell’s brilliant direction of WOMEN IN LOVE.

    BTW, I am going to re-watch THE DEVILS next week and will report back.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Edwin Drood
    Participant
    Joined:
    Nov 27th, 2010
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44755

    Vamp – You own a copy of The Devils?  It’s not available from Netflix and I haven’t seen it in years…

    ReplyCopy URL
    Scottferguson
    Participant
    Joined:
    Sep 26th, 2011
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44756

    I have The Devils on laserdisc.

    Airport didn’t deserve a best picture nomination, but I’m happy to defend the idea that it is a better film than Ryan’s Daughter.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Carbon Based Lifeform
    Participant
    Joined:
    Jun 20th, 2011
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44757

    Vamp – You own a copy of The Devils?  It’s not available from Netflix and I haven’t seen it in years…

    I have a (bootleg?) copy on DVD that promises an “uncut, restored” version.  I just watched the first scene — Louis XIII reenacting “the birth of Venus” for Cardinal Richelieu’s (dis)pleasure — and although the image quality of the DVD is horrendous, I still felt the full force of Russell’s searing vision.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Edwin Drood
    Participant
    Joined:
    Nov 27th, 2010
    Topics:
    Posts:
    #44758

    Too bad about the quality.  Apparently much of Russell’s vision has never been seen as so many cuts were made not only before the film was shown but even after.  I’ve read of such infamous sequences as the “rape of Christ” wherein the nuns apparently took turns mounting a life-sized crucifix and a finale wherein Redgrave was depicted pleasuring herself with the charred thigh-bone of a priest who’d been burnt at the stake.  Yup, nothing promised family fun for all ages quite like a Ken Russell film…

    ReplyCopy URL
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)
Reply To: KEN RUSSELL (1927-2011)

You can use BBCodes to format your content.
Your account can't use Advanced BBCodes, they will be stripped before saving.

Similar Topics
hani002 - Aug 16, 2017
Movies
Scandal... - Aug 15, 2017
Movies