In an interview with The Guardian's Stuart Jeffries last April, Ken Russell recalled a childhood spent in the cinema. From a very young age, he would seek refuge there with his mother - who was shielding her son, and herself, from his abusive father. Much to his chagrin, Russell's mother favored love stories. But on several occasions, he'd venture out to the movies by himself. And that's when the magic happened.
"A man felt my leg during PINOCCHIO."
It's a throwaway moment in the interview, but there's something to this awful transgression of a sexual nature occuring in the middle of Walt Disney's classic about a puppet attempting to prove himself brave, truthful and unselfish in order to become a real boy. The intent of Disney's film has been utterly perverted by a handsy pedo. Quintessential Russell.
This distasteful encounter, it seems, ended there, but Russell's career as a provocateur was only just beginning. Throughout his eclectic career, Russell challenged sexual conventions and attacked religious convictions. His masterpiece was probably WOMEN IN LOVE, an adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel which won Glenda Jackson a Best Actress Oscar while giving audiences an eyeful of Oliver Reed and Alan Bates in an infamous nude wrestling scene. And then there was THE DEVILS, a film that so inflamed critics and religious leaders at the time that Warner Bros. still refuses to officially release it on Blu-ray or DVD.
There is much to say about Russell's phenomenal and quite contentious career, and I'll write further as soon as soon as I return from a screening. In the meantime, there's a terrific selection of obits and and other remembrances compiled at MUBI. Of course, feel free to share your thoughts about Russell in the talkback below.