Archive for November 29th, 2011

by Allan Fish

When I heard of Ken Russell’s death first thing this morning after going onto the IMDb and BBC websites, one felt a sense of shock.  And shock at a death can come in so many different guises.  Only 24 hours earlier the football world, in the UK in particular, was beyond saddened to hear of the death of Gary Speed, aged 42, who was found dead after committing suicide.  He was loved by many, and as with all suicides, the question arose as to why.  My mind also thought back to the fact that, less than 24 hours earlier, he’d been on TV’s Football Focus as bright as a button.  It was a painful day for many on Sunday.

The news of Ken’s death brought forth a different sense of shock.  He was twice Gary Speed’s age.  84.  Not a bad innings, all things considered.  But there was a similarity.  Only days earlier he’d still be tweeting and facebooking under his moniker ‘Unkle Ken Russell’.  It was less than a week ago one saw that he had ticked ‘Like’ to various comments about the impending BFI DVD release of The Devils.  I felt like I’d lost a friend, a feeling I’d not felt since Kubrick died.  When Kubrick had died Steven Spielberg talked of how numb he was and that he always thought that Stan would direct his Ran at 80.  Russell’s death didn’t deprive us of more films; he lived longer but was an effective outcast from the early 1980s.  He made films and TV dramas after, but only in the way that Karl Freund kept working as DP on I Love Lucy when Hollywood had neglectfully let him rot.

Ask anyone in the US about Ken Russell and it’ll be D.H.Lawrence and Women in Love that comes up first, for that remains his most famous film, if for reasons that may have little to do with Russell, more for Glenda’s Oscar and Ollie and Alan’s nude wrestling scene performed after Ollie got a bottle of vodka for each to drink before filming.  There was so much more to him than that, however, and it’s often easy to forget just what a major figure he’d been in the 1960s.  In those days, the BBC nurtured such talents as not only Russell but Ken Loach, Dennis Potter, Galton and Simpson, Peter Watkins, Mike Leigh and Stephen Frears.  And just as Loach’s best work remains his TV masterpieces Cathy Come Home and the recently reissued and still firebrand Days of Hope, so Russell’s most important work came at the BBC. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Sweden 1936 88m) DVD1

Seeing the flag…

d  Gustav Molander  w  Gustav Molander, Gösta Stevens  ph  Äke Dahlquist  ed  Oscar Rosander  m  Heinz Provost, Robert Henning

Gösta Ekman (Holger Brandt), Inga Tidblad (Margit Brandt), Ingrid Bergman (Anita Hoffman), Erik ‘Bullen’ Burglund (Charles Möller), Britt Hagman (Ann-Marie Brandt), Hugo Björne (Thomas Stenborg), Hasse Ekman (Ake Brandt), Millan Bolander (Emma), Margarete Orth (Marie),

Imagine, sirs, if you had the choice to have one of the cinematic pantheon of goddesses descend from Mount Olympus and be your companion on a desert island.  You could pick any you wanted in any role; Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box, say, Dietrich in Morocco, Bardot in just about anything up to and including Le Mépris, Arnoul in French Can Can, whoever.  All seem from another world, and not a real one.  Loren saunters by, but there was always a feeling of dear Sophia being mother earth in human form.  Then you think and remember a picture in your mind, of Ingrid Bergman, aged 20, coming into a room, standing in the doorway and the camera worshipping her while falling to the floor. 

            Easy then to think of what would follow, of the Hollywood remake, of Ilse Lund and Anna Anderson, of Salvador Dali’s dreams – and Hitchcock and Rossellini’s come to that.  When she finally went to Hollywood after a whistle-stop visit back to Sweden to make June Night in 1939, it would be nearly thirty years before she’d make a film there again.  That film was only two reels in an otherwise maudlin package called Stimulantia, an adaptation of de Maupassant’s ‘The Necklace’ with Ingrid opposite Gunnar Björnstrand, and which she did as a favour to Gustaf Molander, who in turn only made it to work with Ingrid again.  (more…)

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