The film world has lost someone who defined the word maverick with the death of Ken Russell.
The 84 year old film director died in his sleep on Sunday Nov 27th. He leaves behind a huge body of work from the Oscar-winning Women in Love to flamboyany outings that brought controversy but never boredom.
Russell’s films mixed high and low culture with rare deftness and often courted high controversy. A controversy that was part of the post war opening up of culture in the UK and part of the removal of the stuffiness. Sometimes he courted trouble like on The Devils which was a religious drama that featured an infamous scene between Oliver Reed and Venessa Redgrave sexualising the crucifixion.
The 1969 Women in Love, is a classic piece of sixties testing the boundaries with its nude male wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed. Russell who vibrant, colourful and over the top sense of film making matched the exuberent no holds barred feel of the times was the perfect choice for the Who’s overblown ‘TOmmy’ which was his biggest commercial success. It may have dated now but is a great example of the excesses of the early seventies.
With his eye for cultural collisions he made an odd but somewhat fitting guest on Celebrity Big Brother, before quitting the show after a disagreement with fellow contestant Jade Goody.
We salute his cinematic madness and his no holds barred contempt of the suffocating censors…