Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ken Russell at the BBC Box Slated for Sept. 23rd


Film
--This is great news for true lovers of cinema everywhere. These were documentaries done by Ken Russell during the 1960s for BBC television. Most are around an hour, some longer, and either focus on some great artist or composer.
More than a few of these films were made for significantly less than a million English pounds.

The set is composed of 3 DVDs (NTSC), clocking-in at 477 minutes. As far as I can tell, they're all black & white, and full screen format as they were broadcast. I own the Isadora Duncan film in 16mm print form, and it looks absolutely luminous.

Expect very surprising quality: the television prints are very fine- grain, and on AGFA safety film ("no vinegar)"! "Dance of the Seven Veils" was Russell's final BBC film--he was booted-out after that, not to return until 1992's "Lady Chatterly," and only because it was through BBC-Birmingham. Sometimes, you have to bypass the head office, and the memory at the BBC is a very long one indeed.

The big surprise of the set is that it has a "suppressed" film. Just a few-years-back, "Dance of the Seven Veils" was banned by the Strauss estate from being shown at a Belgian film festival. The reasons were obvious from the film's content: Russell paints the waltz composer Richard Strauss for what he was--an ardent Nazi supporter (though this is arguable), and one of Hitler's most famous admirers outside of Leni Riefenstahl. Russell argues throughout the majority of his biopic documentaries (even his studio ones) that, yes, these were incredibly flawed individuals, but that their artistic works redeem them. This release is sorely overdue.

The tentative film list:

The Debussy Film, Dante's Inferno (w. Oliver Reed!!), Always on Sunday, Isadora: The Biggest Dancer in the World, A Song of Summer, Dance of the Seven Veils