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Provocative Director Ken Russell Dies at 84, Film World Pays Tribute

Posted on the 29 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Provocative director Ken Russell dies at 84, film world pays tribute

The director of the film version of Tommy, Ken Russell, has died. Photo credit: Kolin Toney,

Tributes have poured in for British film director Ken Russell, who has died at the age of 84. Russell was best known for Women In Love, for which he received an Oscar nomination, The Devils and The Who’s rock opera Tommy. The director also made an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 but left after four days.

Famous friends. The BBC published a round-up of tributes from leading figures. Former actress and MP Glenda Jackson, who won an Oscar for Women In Love, praised Russell’s visual talent and said it was a privilege to work with him. Vanessa Redgrave, star of The Devils, called for the BBC to screen Russell’s films in tribute, and described the director as a genius.

Controversial. Dennis Lim focused on Russell’s “flair for provocation” in The New York Times, pointing out that the director divided critics: “A polarizing figure who delighted in breaching the limits of propriety and cinematic good taste, Mr. Russell courted controversy through much of his career.”

Musical inspiration. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said that Russell’s inspiration came from music: “His ideas, his images, his rows, his career itself were all one colossal, chaotic rhapsody.” Bradshaw praised Russell’s films, including the controversial nude wrestling scene from Women In Love, as “a rebuke to British parochialism, literalism and complacency”.

Conservative, not liberal. In The Telegraph Tim Stanley took issue with the popular view that that outrageousness of Russell’s films meant the director was a radical liberal: “Ken was one of the greatest conservative artists of his time.” Stanley pointed to Russell’s conversion to Catholicism as a major influence on his work: “He saw the world as a Romantic Catholic does – full of mystery and magic.”

Hell-raiser? The Daily Mail homed in on the director’s private life, linking the “fertile imagination” on show in Russell’s films with his “eccentric lifestyle”: “Four times married, he succeeded in driving most of his partners crazy to the point that, however mesmeric they might have found his artistic vision, they had to leave home to save themselves.”

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