Monday, 23 April 2012

Scene 11: The Music Lover, Ken Russell

Yesterday I was writing a post on my other blog A Lady of Literature, about the famous night when Byron challenged his guests to write a ghost story, when I was reminded that several films had been done about the event - including Gothic (1986), by the late director and writer Ken Russell. 

[Warning some trailers may include scenes of nudity and in the case of Gothic, above, fantasy horror.]

I surprisingly know quite a bit about Ken Russell, despite having only seen one of his films, the beautifully shot, The Rainbow (1989). 

I learnt alot about him from a cinematographer friend of mine, and then later through watching a BBC documentary, Ken Russell: A Bit of a Devil

Ken Russell began his film career  the culture programme Monitor at the BBC back in the early sixties, shooting short documentary films about musicans and poets, where he broke new ground and achieved recognition with his film on musican Edward Elgar. 

Russell was a great lover of music, particularly classical, and music plays a big part in many of his films, much as Mahler (1974), Lisztomania (1975) and Tommy (1975).

However he was also controversial for his nudity, sexual references. In particular his film The Devils (1971) was given an X-rating in Britain, and has only recently that film has been released on DVD by the BFI.  

Russell's most well-known film though is the Oscar-nominated Women in Love (1969), based on the DH Lawrence novel, with the famous scene of Oliver Reed and Alan Bates fighting nude infront of a fire-place. 

He also directed a tribute to the 1920's and musicals called The Boyfriend (1971) starring the model Twiggy, and a music video for Elton John. 

Sadly Ken Russell died last November, just when he had started pre-production on a new musical version of Alice in Wonderland. 

Obviously Ken Russell will not be for everyone, but nonetheless he has made a lasting impact on British film and I look forward to watching more of his movies.

For more on Ken Russell check out the BBC documentary or a rather excellent  short introduction to his films called On Ken Russell.

1 comment:

  1. My knowlege is severely limited on this subject to 'Elgar' and to 'Bartok'. The former is one of my all time favourite pieces. The now iconic image of Elgar (actor portraying) going across our beloved Malverns on the back of a horse/ donkey. Key moment, key image.