Altered States: The Films Of Ken Russell

Repertory Series
May 26 - June 1, 2006

Series IllustrationKen Russell is the forefather of the contemporary eccentric British filmmaker. Peter Greenaway, Derek Jarman, even adopted Brit Terry Gilliam, all owe a debt to this boundary-pushing rogue director. From hotly contested fact-and-fantasy biopics (MAHLER, THE MUSIC LOVERS) to garish pop musicals (TOMMY, THE BOY FRIEND) to grueling pseudo-horror (THE DEVILS, ALTERED STATES), Russell has an ineffable way of making the ugly, absurd and perverse seem lush and beautiful. Much like Greenaway, he casts a painterly eye on his subjects and what comes across onscreen is a phantasmagorical orgy of color, sound, and bodies. All too often pigeonholed as the "bad boy of British cinema," Russell's seeming trangressiveness belies an impish sense of humor and a humanist sensibility that enable him to uncover the absurd in the beautiful and the beautiful in the absurd. Join us for a mind-bending week of films by one of cinema's most joyously over-the-top maestros.

Ken Russell Links
Filmography at IMDB.com
Biography at IMDB.com
Wikipedia Entry
Interview at BizarreMag.com
Recent BBC Interview

Dates & Showtimes

Friday, May 26
THE DEVILS at 7:15
ALTERED STATES at 5:00, 9:30

Saturday, May 27
THE DEVILS at 2:45, 7:15
ALTERED STATES at 5:00, 9:30

Sunday, May 28
TOMMY at 2:30, 7:15
LISZTOMANIA at 5:00, 9:45

Monday, May 29
THE MUSIC LOVERS at 7:00
MAHLER at 4:30, 9:30

Tuesday, May 30
MAHLER at 4:30, 9:30
Please Note: THE MUSIC LOVERS will not play as originally scheduled

Wednesday, May 31
WOMEN IN LOVE at 7:00
THE RAINBOW at 4:30, 9:30

Thursday, June 1
THE BOYFRIEND at 5:00, 8:00

Film Descriptions

THE DEVILS
(1971) dir Ken Russell w/Venessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed, Dudley Sutton [103 min]

Outrageous even by today's standards, THE DEVILS is perhaps the best example of Russell putting his taste for excess to good use. It's 17th century France, and a sinister Cardinal is plotting the removal of troublemaking priest (Russell favorite Oliver Reed). When a sex-crazed, demented nun (Vanessa Redgrave) blames Reed for her supposed demonic possession, the Cardinal sees his chance- and it isn't long before the entire convent is whipped into a complete frenzy. THE DEVILS is bursting with Inquisition-style torture and some truly blasphemous sequences, but it isn't your average exploitation flick. Russell uses the witch-hunt motif to explore manias -- sexual, political, religious and otherwise. It is no surprise that aficionados consider THE DEVILS to be the film Ken Russell was born to make.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com

ALTERED STATES
(1980) dir Ken Russell w/William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban [102 min]

William Hurt made his film debut in Russell's 1980 foray into Hollywood. Aided by his trusty isolation tank, Harvard University research scientist Eddie Jessup (Hurt) tests his theory that total sensory deprivation can bring the human mind to uncharted levels of consciousness. When he introduces hallucinogenic substances into his experiments, his wife (Brown) begins to fear for what her husband might be getting up to in the basement. Is Dr. Jessup losing his mind… or evolving? Ken Russell brings his own unmistakable flair to the mad scientist genre and Dr. Jessup's numerous psychedelic experiences. The climactic scene where Dr. Jessup takes his ultimate trip is one of the unforgettable moments in science fiction.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com
Trailer (WMP)

TOMMY
(1975) dir Ken Russell w/Roger Daltry, Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, Elton John, Eric Clapton, John Entwhistle, Keith Moon, Jack Nicholson, Pete Townshend, Tina Turner [111 min]

For those who are new to Ken Russell's daft vision, his 1975 adaptation of The Who's seminal rock opera is a great starting point (and the music is great too!). Roger Daltry stars as the titular deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard. Pete Townsend's send-up of organized religion proved fertile ground for Russell's distinctive brand of mayhem. What makes TOMMY special is that without compromising any of his sensibilities, Russell maintains TOMMY'S central story about the perils of celebrity, and how terrifying it is to be a child. Of course, every member of The Who makes an appearance, with an especially freaky performance by Keith Moon as Tommy's pederast uncle.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com
Trailer (WMP)

LISZTOMANIA
(1975) dir Ken Russell w/Roger Daltry, Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas, Ringo Starr, Rick Wakeman [103 min]

Perhaps one of Russell's most fanciful biopics, LISZTOMANIA features Roger Daltry of The Who as Franz Liszt, the famed 19th century composer and pianist. Russell supposes that Liszt was the equivalent of a rock star and Daltry plays it accordingly - complete with squealing groupies, multiple mistresses, almost ubiquitous phallic imagery, and, of course, Richard Wagner. Ringo Starr plays the Pope, Daltry and Russell came up with lyrics for some of Liszt's tunes, and Yes's Rick Wakeman composed additional music, so you know this can't be a typical, reverent biography.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com

THE MUSIC LOVERS
(1970) dir Ken Russell w/Richard Chamberlain, Glenda Jackson [123 min]

The enormous success of WOMEN IN LOVE allowed Ken Russell to make the first in what would be a trilogy of increasingly experimental biopics on famous composers. Suspecting that studios wouldn't be keen to finance a movie about Tchaikovsky, Russell pitched THE MUSIC LOVERS as "the story of the marriage between a homosexual and a nymphomaniac." While the film does focus on the disastrous union of Peter Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) and his mentally ill wife (Glenda Jackson), Russell's ultimate "tortured artist" story is not puerile or crass, but a supremely disconcerting film that never flinches in tracing Tchaikovsky's downward trajectory into madness. Glenda Jackson is truly startling in her courageous performance as Tchaikovsky's wife.

Please Note: Wed 5/30 screening cancelled to accommodate additional programming.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com

MAHLER
(1974) dir Ken Russell w/Robert Powell, Georgina Hale, Antonia Ellis [115 min]

This innovative biopic of late 19th century composer Gustav Mahler takes place during a single train ride that he takes with his wife. As the train rolls inevitably along, the film weaves in and out of dreams, memories, fantasy and reality and the couple confronts their troubled past and present in a unique and enchanting way. Oh yes, and it also features a potrayal of Richard Wagner's widow as a dominatrix-garbed, whip-wielding nazi in one dream sequence.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com

WOMEN IN LOVE
(1969) dir Ken Russell w/Alan Bates, Oliver Reed, Glenda Jackson, Jennie Linden [131 min]

This 1969 adaptation of the DH Lawrence novel earned accolades for Russell and an Academy Award for Glenda Jackson. Oliver Reed and Alan Bates star as friends who fall in love with a pair of sisters: a schoolteacher (Linden) and a tempestuous artist (Jackson). As one couple finds happiness by learning to give themselves over to love, the other relationship ends in tragedy. WOMEN IN LOVE has been interpreted as a homosexual love story and a philosophical rumination on relationships between men and women; whatever you decide it is about, it remains one of the finest examples of postwar British film. While WOMEN IN LOVE is relatively restrained compared to the extremes of Russell's later career, the nude wrestling match between Reed and Bates has achieved fame as once of the most sexually charged moments in film history.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com
Trailer (WMP)

THE RAINBOW
(1989) dir Ken Russell w/Sammi Davis, Paul McGann, Amanda Donohoe, David Hemmings, Glenda Jackson [113 min]

Russell returned to DH Lawrence twenty years after WOMEN IN LOVE with this altogether more free-spirited adaptation of a related novel. Sammi Davis plays Ursula, a young Victorian woman who longs to break out of her buttoned-down life and finds that escape through the 'mentorship' of another woman. Something of a prequel to WOMEN IN LOVE, Ursula is actually a younger version of the character played by Jennie Linden in the previous film and Glenda Jackson appears as the mother of her character.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com

THE BOYFRIEND
(1971) dir Ken Russell w/Twiggy, Christopher Gale, Max Adrian, Bryan Pringle, Glenda Jackson [137 min]

Even Ken Russell's detractors had to admit that the 1971 releases of the witch-hunting torture epic THE DEVILS and his bubbly homage to classic movie musicals THE BOY FRIEND proved Britain's bad boy of cinema had range to spare. British supermodel Twiggy proved her singing and dancing mettle with her starring role as a shy stand-in who must take center stage in a theatrical company's show when the leading lady (Glenda Jackson, in an amusing cameo) suffers an injury. When the cast learns a Hollywood director is to be in the audience that night, Russell's camera takes us into the characters' fantasies of achieving fame and success in Hollywood. With Busby Berkley-inspired musical numbers and a sweetness Russell's films usually lack, THE BOY FRIEND has obvious affection for its source material. THE BOY FRIEND was trimmed by over thirty minutes in its initial release, and we are excited to be showing the director's cut of one of the most underrated films of the 1970's.

Related Links
Info at IMDB.com

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