The Best of Ken Russell

Yesterday was a sad day for the world of film as we lost of one the visionaries of British cinema, Ken Russell. The director who was not afraid to be controversial or push boundaries, challenging the norm in countless thought provoking pieces. Here are my personal favourites:

Women In Love (1969)
Stars: Oliver Reed, Glenda Jackson, Alan Bates, Jennie Linden
Incredibly controversial for it's time, Russell's adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel of the same name, focuses on the loves and relationships of two sisters in 1920s Yorkshire. This intense character study won Glenda Jackson, an Oscar for best actress in 1969 despite being fairly unknown. Russell also pushed sexual boundaries, yet does so with taste and lavish style.

The Devils (1971)
Stars: Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave, Dudley Sutton
Ken Russell's masterpiece The Devils, the story of an outspoken priest (Oliver Reed) facing a corrupt Cardinal who wishes to take-over his fortified town. In order to remove the priest he is set up to be a devil-worshiper in control of a satanically-possessed nunnery. It is not long until witch hunters are called in and the stake is being prepared.I was completely blown away. It's provocative, disturbing and both wonderfully acted and directed. It also features some of the finest sets used in cinema from Derek Jarman. 

Savage Messiah (1972)
Stars: Scott Antony, Dorothy Tutin, Michael Gough, Helen Mirren
Possibly the least 'Ken Russell' of all the directors films, is a biography of young artist, Henri Gaudier a self-taught sculptor prone to eccentric behavior and outlandish gestures. We follow his turbulent relationship with his life, his work and the the aftermath of WW1. Savage Messiah is a little seen but excellent film and although toned down, still features Russell's trademark visual style and quirkiness.  

Lisztomania (1975)
Stars: Roger Daltrey, Ringo Starr, Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicolas
This deranged look at the life of composer Frank Liszt is nothing but sheer genius. Despite being slated at the time of release, it's now a cult classic and a piece of visionary phenomenon. Any film that stars Ringo Starr as The Pope is genius.

Gothic (1986)
Stars: Natasha Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Timothy Spall
Maybe one for serious fans of Russell as it's downright bizarre nature may be off putting for some.We're told of the night when Mary Shelley wrote her iconic novel, Frankenstein  where crazed drug induced games are played and horrific ghost stories are told. Despite looking fairly dated now, Gothic is incredibly creepy yet slightly messy feature from Russell, although it is not without it's charm.

This is just a small selection of my favourites. Russell's Altered States, Tommy, The Lair of the White Worm, Whore, The Boy Friend, Billion Dollar Brain are all deserving of a watch. 

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