Ken, Ed, Fred…

Ken Russell diesPeeved email from a dear friend — in response to yesterday’s posting and its (rather mild, I thought!) criticisms of Ken Russell’s ‘composer’ films:

… Don’t you think your complaints were a little unfair? […] Surely you admire his films on Elgar and Delius? There’s nothing wrong with those, is there? Aren’t you afraid that you’ll put people off seeing them? […]

And, to answer my friend’s questions in order:

i) No, I don’t.

ii) Yes, I do.

iii) No, there isn’t.

iv) No, I’m not.

Naturally, the only one of those four questions that really matters is the last one: what yours truly happens to think of someone else’s creation may seem important to me and a few of my closest friends — but it’s of considerably less significance than the damage that can easily be done to other people’s artistic ‘hospitality’ and ‘openness to experience’ by an ill-judged piece of critical comment. I myself would think it a real tragedy if someone who’d never seen a Ken Russell film now decided not to on the strength of the comments they’d seen me make in a blog posting — comments that were really addressed to people who’d already seen all of Russell’s films, and were able to measure my thoughts and feelings against their own…

russell-wormSo let me reinforce my answer to (iv) by actually linking to videos of the two Russell items that my friend mentioned: Elgar (1962) and A Song of Summer (1968). Out of respect for my friend, I hereby declare that watching both of these is compulsory for everyone who read yesterday’s posting.

Incidentally, in linking to these films I am suddenly reminded of all the people I have taught — in evening classes and other adult-education settings — who have, over the years, told me that they remember particular shots from these two films: the horse galloping over the hills; the pairs of hands overlapping at the piano; the young man spilling ink over his fingers; the blind and paralysed composer carried up the mountain for a final act of nature-worship…

Some of those people — let me stress! — were telling me their memories of things they’d seen once only, and more than 35 years earlier.  Whatever I object to in many of Russell’s other films, the fact remains that if people are taking the memory of your images to the grave, then you’re definitely doing something right.

Here are the films — made, as you will be aware, for a BBC that no longer exists…



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