Thursday, August 5, 2010

Film Comment-Fall 1970 Issue/Interview with Ken Russell

Ken Russell/Film Comment
(Interview conducted by Gene D. Phillips for the Fall 1970 issue of Film Comment)

With Women in Love, 42-year-old British director Ken Russell suddenly burst upon the film scene as a director of international importance, and American filmgoers wondered where this considerable talent had been keeping itself all this time. British viewers, however, were not in the least surprised by the craftsmanship that Russell displayed in Women, since for a decade they had been treated to a series of excellent documentaries which Russell had made for BBC-TV. Recently Russell invited me to his favorite London pub, near the place where he was supervising the final editing of his latest film, The Music Lovers, to discuss his career past, present, and future. 

GENE D. PHILLIPS: Like John Schlesinger, you broke into films by way of TV. How did you get into TV in the first place?
KEN RUSSELL: In 1959 I got the chance to do some 10-minute segments for a TV series called Monitor. Huw Weldon, who is now managing director of BBC-TV, worked on the series too. After awhile I was allowed to make some longer documentary shorts for use on the program. I did one on the dance craze, the guitar craze, and one on pop artists called Pop Goes the Easel. My segment on photographers probably influenced Blow-Up

Finally I was asked to do some full-length biographies on the lives of great artists of the past: composers like Elgar, Debussy, Bartok. Prokofiev, and Delius; the poet Rossetti, and dancer Isadora Duncan. I did a film in 1964 called French Dressing, a kind of seaside comedy, but it was an ill-conceived project from the start: the chemistry of the characters was wrong and the story never quite jelled. It was a flop, so I continued on in television. 

(click here to read the full text of the Ken Russell interview on the Film Comment website)  

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