Monday, November 28, 2011

RIP Ken Russell

...dead at 84 of a stroke, as of yesterday. Say what one will about his excesses, Russell was one of the first directors of note to come to my attention; here in Maple Ridge, back in the 1970's and 1980's, it wasn't all that easy to connect with real cinema - even once video stores started opening, their stock wasn't exactly handpicked by cinephiles (I remember one of the first video stores in town renting Koyaanisqatsi to people for free because the owners thought it was so bad that they couldn't dare ask money for it). While not all of Russell's films hold my interest now, back then, Altered States, Tommy, Women In Love, The Devils, even Crimes of Passion were important films for me, films to watch repeatedly and talk about with friends, and Russell was one of the first directors whose work I sought out based on his name (along with John Cassavetes - most of whose films were completely unavailable on video for years - and Nic Roeg). His films were relatively easy to find on VHS, all striking in some way or another, and yoked by certain themes and proclivities such that, as a kid with a growing love of cinema, I could grasp that he was an auteur. (The relative unsubtlety of some of his films probably aided my 12-year old appreciation of them - that's how old I was when I saw my first one, Altered States, at the Stanley Theatre in Vancouver during its first theatrical run). Perhaps Russell's passing will stimulate interest in him and prompt Warner's American arm to do something daring like putting out the WHOLE VERSION of his greatest film achievement (see below). My respects to Ken Russell.

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