In July I was fortunate enough to see Ken Russell’s film The Devils, in the most complete version available, projected at the BFI Southbank and introduced by Mark Kermode.
I had previously seen a dreadful, incomplete, fuzzy VHS – years ago.
The Southbank print was phenomenal. It was, and is, the best film I’ve seen all year – regardless of release. Primal, passionate, shocking in content and utterly committed.
Ken was due to make an appearance for a Q and A, but was too ill to attend.
Although I feel sad at Russell’s passing today, I would rather celebrate what was a long, magnificent and creatively full life. This guy (along with Nicolas Roeg) is responsible for some of the most vibrant and sensual British films of the late twentieth century.
He was also at the forefront of the most exciting time for television and the arts, and his ground-breaking documentaries increased people’s knowledge of – and passion for – classical music.
He was a visionary, no doubt. He also had a marvellous, healthy disdain for taste and decency – the two great enemies of art. He made films with images like this:
He launched some amazing careers and cast some of our best actors in unlikely, outlandish roles.
He made daring films in the US with people like William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.
Like this remarkable film:
And best of all, he carried on making extremely low-budget (no budget) films when he couldn’t get backing and no one wanted to hire him.
Cheap and cheerful tat with sexy goths, in his back garden. Brilliant!
Probably absolute rubbish, but who cares? He clearly HAD to keep on filming.
My favourite Russell films are definitely THE DEVILS, VALENTINO (seriously, it’s brilliant), ALTERED STATES, CRIMES OF PASSION and THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM.
Weirdly, although I like The Who and love Russell, I was never crazy for TOMMY.
Maybe I’ll give it another go. I’m certainly going to watch a few of his others again.
So don’t rest in peace Ken.
Wherever you’ve gone, keep raising merry hell..