Ken Russell

"Working in a distinctly operatic style, but capable of surprising moments of quiet, gentle beauty, Russell has continued to push the boundaries of mainstream film, and what the censors will allow… A strikingly original filmmaker, Russell remains one of the handful of directors to create a wholly personal body of work within the confines of mainstream cinema." - Ken Hanke (501 Movie Directors, 2007)

Ken Russell

Director / Screenwriter / Producer
(1927-2011) Born July 3, Southampton, Hampshire, England
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Countries: UK, USA
Key Genres: Drama, Biopic, Period Film, Documentary, Musical Drama, Creature Film, Comedy, Musical, Showbiz Comedy, Short Film, Music
Key Collaborators: Dick Bush (Cinematographer), Michael Bradsell (Editor), Christopher Gable (Leading Character Actor), Max Adrian (Leading Actor), Glenda Jackson (Leading Character Actress), Oliver Reed (Leading Actor), Murray Melvin (Character Actor), Georgina Hale (Character Actress), Vladek Sheybal (Character Actor), Roger Daltrey (Leading Actor), Ronaldo Vasconcellos (Producer), Roy Baird (Producer)

"The flamboyant subjectivity and aversion to realism that marked Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell as Britain's most successful film-maker in the late '60s and early '70s rapidly degenerated into sensationalist excess and fatuous hallucinatory fantasy. What was once a valuable antidote to constipated notions of good taste now seems a self-conscious and vain desire to shock and titillate… Russell's importance lies in the way his example encouraged other British directors to abandon notions of realism and attempt more personal forms of film-making." - Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)
"The iconoclastic director of some of the best television documentaries ever made (for the BBC Monitor programme), Russell had considerable success with his biographies of composers Frederick Delius, Edward Elgar and Claude Debussy and this paved the way for his extraordinary debut in future films. Women in Love (1969), which remains one of the best-ever big-screen adaptations of D.H. Lawrence… There is no one else quite like him." - Mario Reading (The Movie Companion, 2006)
“A colourful, flamboyant and controversial figure, Ken Russell and his always imaginative, sometimes outrageous, movies have generally received a bad press. The reaction of critics and reviewers has ranged form merely nasty to the excessively vindictive, while there is also an intellectually snobbish approach which considers Russell's works vulgar, degrading to their subjects and unworthy of serious comment. These charges are not untrue when he indulges in his worst excesses but, at his best, this enfant terrible is a uniquely imaginative and stimulating interpreter of the artist's neurosis.” - Joel W. Finler (The Movie Directors Story, 1985)
"Flamboyant British television and film director whose often garish visual style and outrageous flights of dramatic fancy are sometimes impressively apt, sometimes alarmingly off-balance. His intensely personal television biographies have manipulated their real life characters to fit a well-defined 'line'. The best of them - on Isadora Duncan, Elgar, Delius - were possibly the most controlled… Odd man out among modern young filmmakers, he seems to have a much closer affinity to Josef von Sternberg or Max Ophüls, without, at the moment, their precise filmic judgement." - Roger Manvell (The International Encyclopedia of Film, 1972)
"Unusual among British directors in pinning his faith to images (and to music), Russell has carried inventiveness to previously unexplored realms of bad taste and inconsequence. Yet the brilliant talent that created the best of his television fictionalized documentaries has never entirely been extinguished." - The Illustrated Who's Who of the Cinema, 1983
“Former ballet dancer, actor, photographer. The short films he made for BBC TV, while displaying Philistinism as to the nature of creation and art, brought a fresh approach and visual flair to bear on the lives of Prokofiev, Elgar, Debussy, Richard Strauss, Delius and Isadora Duncan. His dilettantism became magnified ten-fold on the big screen, and images that had livened up 'the box', grew flaunting, crude and gaudy. Every stale cinematic trick was vomited up into the public's faces.” - Ronald Bergan (A-Z of Movie Directors, 1983)
"While there may be subtleties and contradictions in his attitude to sexuality, his very unsubtle presentation of it looks like misogyny. Though his visual imagination is often striking, it leaves little room for the imagination of the spectator, and his erotic imagery ends up being curiously and unsensuously intellectual. His bad taste ought to be a relief from the proprieties of a cinema of restraint, but ends up being rather wearying." - John Caughie (Encyclopedia of European Cinema, 1995)
TSPDT Guide
Recommended
Song of Summer [TV] (1968)
Worth a Look
Pop Goes the Easel [TV] (1962), Elgar [TV] (1962), Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World [TV] (1966), Women in Love (1969), The Music Lovers (1971), Savage Messiah (1972), Mahler (1974), Tommy (1975), A British Picture [TV] (1989)
Approach with Caution
Billion Dollar Brain (1967), The Devils (1971) , Lisztomania (1975), Altered States (1980), The Lair of the White Worm (1988), Whore (1991)
Not Recommended
The Boy Friend (1971), Crimes of Passion (1984), Salome's Last Dance (1988)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films
Ken Russell / Favourite Films
The 39 Steps (1935) Alfred Hitchcock, La Belle et la bête (1946) Jean Cocteau, Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles, Fantasia (1940) Ben Sharpsteen, Gone with the Wind (1939) Victor Fleming, Metropolis (1927) Fritz Lang, A Night at the Opera (1935) Sam Wood, The Red Shoes (1948) Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) David Mirkin, La Strada (1954) Federico Fellini.
Source: Times Online (2007)
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    The Boyfriend
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