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Ken Russell (1927 - )
Related: The Devils (1971) - Women In Love - director - British cinema
The Devils (1971) - Ken Russell [Amazon.com]
Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell, known as Ken Russell (born July 3, 1927) is a controversial British film director, particularly known for his films about famous composers.
He was born in Southampton, and served in both the RAF and the Merchant Navy before taking up the arts and beginning to make his own films. One of his first major successes was a BBC documentary about the life of Edward Elgar, and his TV film about the life of Frederick Delius, as seen through the eyes of Eric Fenby, was also well-received.
His first major feature film was 1969's Women in Love, based on the novel by D. H. Lawrence. More work in a similar vein followed, including The Music Lovers (1970), a biopic of Tchaikovsky which drew attention to his homosexuality, and The Devils, based on Aldous Huxley's book The Devils of Loudun, starring Vanessa Redgrave in a highly controversial role as a nun.
By the 1990s, Russell's work had attracted so much media attention that he was widely regarded as unemployable, and he is now largely reliant on his own finances to continue making films.
He and late ex-wife, Shirley (now deceased), converted to Roman Catholicism together. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Russell
- Tommy (1975) - Ken Russell [Amazon US]
If you've ever wanted to hear Jack Nicholson sing (or try to) or marvel at the sight of Ann-Margret drunkenly cavorting in a cascade of baked beans, Tommy is the movie you've been waiting for. As it turns out, the Who's brilliant rock opera is sublimely matched to director Ken Russell's penchant for cinematic excess, and this 1975 production finds Russell at the peak of his filmmaking audacity. It's a fever-dream of musical bombast, custom-fit to the thematic ambition of Pete Townshend's epic rock drama, revolving around the titular "deaf, dumb, and blind kid" (played by Who vocalist Roger Daltrey) who survives the childhood trauma that stole his senses to become a Pinball Wizard messiah in Townshend's grandiose attack on the hypocrisy of organized religion. The story is remarkably coherent considering the hypnotic dream-state induced by Russell's visuals. Tommy's odyssey is rendered through wall-to-wall music, each song representing a pivotal chapter in Tommy's chronology, from the bloodstream shock of "The Acid Queen" (performed to the hilt by Tina Turner) to Nicholson's turn as a well-intentioned physician, Elton John's towering rendition of "Pinball Wizard," and Daltrey's epiphanous rendition of "I'm Free." Other performers include Eric Clapton and (most outrageously) the Who's drummer Keith Moon, and through it all Russell is almost religiously faithful to Townshend's artistic vision. Although it divided critics when first released, Tommy now looks likes a minor classic of gonzo cinema, worthy of the musical genius that fueled its creation. --Jeff Shannon for Amazon.com
- Crimes of Passion (1984) - Ken Russell [Amazon US]
The crazy man of British film, Ken Russell (Women in Love, Whore), hit the apex of guilty-pleasure absurdity with Crimes of Passion, a dark if pointed (and ultimately poignant) walk on the wild side. Although this schizophrenic, neon-blurred traipse through the red-light district of Los Angeles, courtesy of hooker and guide China Blue (Kathleen Turner), never made much money at the box office, it still managed to eke out a cult following. Barry Sandler's script felt a lot like a play with its rather stilted (but furiously funny) dialogue between Turner and Anthony Perkins, who plays an obsessed and crazed stalker/reverend who believes he is China Blue's savior. Their story is contrasted against that of Bobby Grady (John Laughlin), who is married to the materialistic Amy (Annie Potts). After taking a second job as a private investigator for a dress manufacturer who thinks his lead designer, Joanna Crane (Turner again), is selling patterns to a rival, Bobby becomes mired in a netherworld he never imagined. But it's Bobby who becomes Joanna/China Blue's true savior; it seems Joanna's husband cheated on her and she created the alter ego, China Blue, in order to control her world by making men dependent on her sexuality. The facade cracks after Bobby hits the scene. Russell's film is bawdy and even daring, and the unrated version on DVD features a couple of scenes (one with China Blue, a cop, and his nightstick, as well as some flashes of pornography) that were not included in the film's original release. Also for die-hard fans, Sandler originally ended the script at a more ambiguous place in the climactic scene in Joanna's apartment. An "epitaph" with Bobby at an encounter group was added to appease the distributor, who wanted a more upbeat, "Hollywood" conclusion. Sandler's original idea gave the film a real wallop, but despite the change, Crimes of Passion remains an original camp classic. --Paula Nechak for Amazon.com
Whore (1991) - Ken Russell
Whore (1991) - Ken Russell [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
A late gem by Ken Russell. Ken experiments with actress Theresa Russell talking directly to the camera.
She is sick of passing her money to her pimp, and the film develops through flashbacks. There are strong links to Crimes of Passion, and some scenes are repeats of the earlier film, but whereas Crimes of Passion looked at sexuality, Whore is another rite of passage film as the whore develops her independence. This coupled with Theresa speaking straight to the camera make it almost a one-woman film. The mixture of whore and mother is also more convincing than China Blue's dual life.
Although the film is Russell's third American film (Altered States and Crimes of Passion went before) it was originally firmly set in Britain, based on a play by David Hines. The play, about a prostitute around the London King Cross area, was a monologue which led to Ken Russell's direct-to-camera approach.
The censored title is If You Can't Say It, Just See It. --http://www.iainfisher.com/russell/russ25.html [Jun 2005]
see also: Ken Russell - whore - 1991
The Music Lovers (1970) Ken Russell
The train sequence in The Music Lovers, in which Nina (Glenda Jackson) attempts to seduce Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain), her homosexual husband, is as savage a moment of hysteria and self-abasement as exists in contemporary film. The participants are drunk and half crazed, the car rocks, the lamp in the compartment swings back and forth creating a mad pattern of light and dark, disguising the cutting and further deranging our senses. In this violence of movement, champagne spills over Nina’s body and Tchaikovsky cringes in terror, the camera alternately looking at the scene from above, regarding his face, then taking his point of view and moving up the hoops of Nina’s skirts, creating a monstrous parody of sexual fear. It is a sequence worthy of the combined cinematic perversions of von Stroheim and Buñuel, and is not the least of the horrors and humiliations Russell heaps upon his characters. -- Robert Kolker via http://www.otal.umd.edu/~rkolker/AlteringEye/Chapter2-2.html [Dec 2005]
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