RIP Ken Russell

Ken Russell photo

Ken Russell 1927 - 2011.

Movie news – Ken Russell dead, Steve McQueen’s Shame opens, Woody Allen turns 76

– by Regan Payne

– Ken Russell passed away earlier this week at the age of 84. Eccentric and critically acclaimed, the British director is probably best known for Tommy, the film version of The Who’s rock opera, and which not only survived performances by Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Roger Daltrey, and Elton John, but even earned two Oscar nominations.

Trailer – Tommy:

http://youtu.be/u9WGIYjxzVU

Tommy may have been infamous, but Women in Love has long been considered by critics as his masterpiece. Set in the 1920s, Russell’s adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel is the director’s take on the battle of the sexes and the ambiguities of love. The film also introduced the world to the massive acting talent Glenda Jackson; she won an Oscar, the first of two, for her efforts.

Movie scene – Women in Love:

Russell was known for his strong opinions and confrontational behavior, and his work reflects a man whose interests vary from film to film. Russell’s films read as though he was Like a studio director from the ’30s or ’40s, Russell tackled genre after genre with the same stubborn abandon, a strategy that has led, for some, to the impression that he lacked direction.

One thing is clear; regardless of one’s opinion of the man or his movie, the British film scene has lost a significant voice.

Lair of the White Worm movie poster

Ken Russell's Lair of the White Worm, 1988.

– From a historically important British voice to a relatively new, and equally brash, one: Shame, the sophomore effort from Steve McQueen. Opening this Friday (though not, it seems, in Vancouver), the movie features another strenuous, intense performance from McQueen’s cinematic conduit, leading man du jour Michael Fassbender (this man is everywhere!).  McQueen has proven himself unrelenting in his young filmmaking career. While Shame is receiving far less critical praise then his first film, Hunger (also with Fassbender) the film still represents a challenging movie-going experience, something all too unfamiliar in multiplexes these days.

Movie trailer – Shame:

Pascal Rabaté, known for his comic writing in Europe and beyond, has refashioned himself a film director. In his latest, Holidays By the Sea, he sends an ensemble cast, including Maria De Medeiros (of Pulp Fiction fame), to the countryside where they communicate, almost Jacques Tati-like, not through words, but by actions and gestures.

– Having only seen snippets from the upcoming The Iron Lady, I hope to be proved wrong in thinking that the Margaret Thatcher biopic represents the first time that Meryl Streep seems not like she’s inhabiting a character, but rather is playing one on Saturday Night Live. Regardless, she is now in the coveted Katharine Hepburn position of securing an Oscar nomination simply by being in a film. But is she a lock to win? The Wrap poses this, and other interesting Oscar-related questions, in a piece this week.

– And, finally, on Thursday, Dec 1, Allen Konigsberg turned 76 years old. Better known as Woody Allen, the filmmaker is still crunching out films year after year, and has found a renaissance of sorts this last decade with movies like Match Point and this year’s hit, Midnight in Paris. His next movie, Nero Fiddled, is set in Rome and features Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg. As opposed to Ken Russell, who has been criticized for stretching too far, Allen has received criticism for not stretching far enough from his favoured themes of relationships, death, and the meaning of it all.

Yet, it is hard to argue that Allen doesn’t belong in the conversation of the most important American filmmakers of all-time. He has continued to score top acting talent for going on five decades, which has to be a record. There has never been a filmmaker, except maybe David Lynch, who more polarizes audiences,  which is another  sign that his films resonate. In Bullets Over Broadway, John Cusack’s idealogical playwright tells an unemployed fellow writer that he is a genius- the proof being he is despised by the public and the critics alike. A great line, and perhaps, some self-reflection of Allen’s own.

Leave a Reply

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!