The controversial, artful and always iconic filmmaker Ken Russell died peacefully in his sleep yesterday, aged 84.
"event" page was created for the highly-anticipated DVD release of his 1971 film The Devils, which was announced barely two weeks ago. Do join and show your support so that this amazing film can find a new generation of appreciative viewers; it has been unavailable except in poor copies for decades now, partly due to its controversial content. Upon its release it was given a special award in Italy, even as it was banned from being shown in theatres there, due to its damning view of catholicism. This recent interview with Russell from The Guardian looks at the film 40 years later.
Derek Jarman, himself a legendary filmmaker who died tragically young), this unforgettable film relates the fact-based story of an arrogant man wrongly accused of trafficking with the devil. In the late 17th century, of course, this was a sure path to the stake.
Not content to sit behind the camera, Russell also appeared in front of it, acting in over two dozen films (sometimes appearing as himself). I particularly enjoyed a brief cameo of him in the stunning 206 pseudo-documentary Brothers of the Head, in which he played a tongue-in-cheek version of himself, an elderly filmmaker unable to finish his project due to lack of funding and other difficulties, situations not unfamiliar to Russell in his later years.
It is a sad reality that many artists do not enjoy proper respect in their autumn years, even those who continue to work as Russell did. I trust Unkle Ken's extraordinary legacy will be a potent reminder of the need to appreciate and honor such artists during their lifetimes.