Ken Russell

  • Ken Russell – The Music Lovers (1971)

    Ken Russell1971-1980ArthouseMusicalQueer Cinema(s)USA
    The Music Lovers (1971)
    The Music Lovers (1971)

    Guided throughout by the swells and dips of Tchaikovsky’s music, Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers examines the tragedies of Tchaikovsky’s life through opulent and fantastic musical sequences running alongside a narrative of the composer’s life between 1875 and 1881. Touching on his disastrous marriage with Antonina Miliukova, his relationship with his patroness Nadezhda von Meck, and his repressed homosexuality, The Music Lovers is anchored by magnetic central performances from Glenda Jackson following her Academy Award for Women in Love, coupled with Richard Chamberlain as a neurotic Tchaikovsky.Read More »

  • Ken Russell – Mahler (1974)

    Ken Russell1971-1980ArthouseDramaUnited Kingdom
    Mahler (1974)
    Mahler (1974)

    Both trifles and structure are tossed out the door by director Ken Russell in this film. Here, historical content matters not so much as metaphors, feelings, emotions, and interpretations, and pay close attention, as every word and frame is intended to be important. The film takes place on a single train ride, in which the sickly composer Gustav Mahler and his wife, Alma, confront the reasons behind their faltered marriage and dying love. Each word seems to evoke memories of past, and so the audience witnesses events of Mahler’s life that explain somewhat his present state. Included are his turbulent and dysfunctional family life as a child, his discovery of solace in the “natural” world, his brother’s suicide, his [unwanted] conversion from Judaism to Catholicism, his rocky marriage and the death of their young child. The movie weaves in and out of dreams, flashbacks, thoughts and reality as Russell poetically describes the man behind the music.Read More »

  • Ken Russell – Omnibus: Dante’s Inferno (1967)

    1961-1970ArthouseDramaKen RussellUnited Kingdom

    Like the dissertation on Duncan, Russell’s look at painter/poet Rossetti and his own personal Hell (a clear allusion to the Dante of Divine Comedy fame) can be tough going at times. His relationship with Elizabeth Siddal is very upsetting, especially when we learn of her terminal illness and Rossetti’s mere indifference to it. There is also another woman, a dark haired succubus who seems to bring out the worst in the artist, constantly turning causal outings into turmoil even where situations finally seem settled. As mentioned before, Russell seems obsessed by the way women of the age interacted with men. There is a contemporary twist of course, but the overall interpretation seems wrapped up in an intricate combination of need, nurturing, and novelty. As played by Reed, Rossetti is a ruthless cad, treating everyone with determined disdain. At least in this situation, we see how the personalities of everyone involved influenced the art.Read More »

  • Ken Russell – Savage Messiah (1972)

    1971-1980ClassicsDramaKen RussellUnited Kingdom

    The Music Lovers. Mahler. Valentino. In these and other films, Ken Russell explores the lives of artists and in turn finds inspiration for his own considerable cinematic creativity. Savage Messiah belongs to that Russell oeuvre and it draws from the filmmaker a work often studied in its pace yet exhilarating in its impact. It is the story of the short, influential career of pre-World War I French sculptor Henri Gaudier and of his intimate yet platonic friendship with a Polish émigré 20 years his senior. Scott Antony and Dorothy Tutin, perhaps better known to theater aficionados, play the two leads. Movie fans will readily identify the third-billed player: Helen Mirren in a memorable early-career role as a flamboyant, uninhibited suffragette.Read More »

  • Ken Russell – The Insatiable Mrs. Kirsch (1993)

    1991-2000EroticaGermanyKen RussellShort Film

    The woman, in her thirties, stands gazing out to sea. The man, a rather studious type, lounges on the grass and finds the woman fascinating. The woman passes closely by without a glance in his direction. He follows her.
    In the hotel dining room the man watches the woman nibbling a corn on the cob dripping with butter. A smile of satisfaction plays around the corner of her mouth. Before she has finished, “Mrs. Kirsch” is paged to come to reception. At least he knows her name.Read More »

  • Ken Russell – Monitor: Pop Goes the Easel (1962)

    1961-1970DocumentaryKen RussellUnited Kingdom

    A portrait of pop artists Peter Blake, Derek Boshier, Pauline Boty, and Peter Phillips.

    For the first two years of his directing career for Monitor, Ken Russell had exclusively worked with shorter items of typically 10-15 minutes in length. By 1962, his reputation was such that Monitor’s head Huw Wheldon was prepared to entrust him with a full-length programme. Elgar, broadcast on November 11, was the best known, but a few months earlier Russell made Pop Goes The Easel, a 44-minute set of variations on a theme of Pop Art.Read More »

  • Ken Russell – The Music Lovers (1971)

    1971-1980DramaKen RussellMusicalQueer Cinema(s)USA

    “Vulgar, excessive, melodramatic and self-indulgent: Tchaikovsky’s music is indeed all of these things, yet gloriously so, and the same goes for Ken Russell at his freewheeling best. The director’s first composer biopic for the cinema approaches Tchaikovsky’s scores as the expression of extreme emotional turmoil.”

    The Music Lovers is about Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, feverishly wrapping his music around his childhood, his career, his sexuality, and his marriage into a tangle.Read More »

  • Ken Russell – Lady Chatterley (1993)

    1991-2000BBCKen RussellRomanceTVUnited Kingdom

    Lady Chatterley is a 1993 BBC television serial starring Sean Bean and Joely Richardson. It is an adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, first broadcast on BBC1 in four 55-minute episodes between 6 and 27 June 1993. A young woman’s husband returns wounded after the First World War. Facing a life with a husband now incapable of sexual activity she begins an affair with the groundskeeper. The film reflect’s Lawrence’s focus not only on casting away sexual taboos but also the examination of the class system prevalent in early 20th century Britain.Read More »

  • Ken Russell – Tommy (1975)

    1971-1980FantasyKen RussellMusicalUnited Kingdom

    Tommy is based upon The Who’s 1969 rock opera album Tommy It was directed by Ken Russell and featured a star-studded cast, including the band members themselves (most notably, lead singer Roger Daltrey, who plays the title role).Read More »

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