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Ken Russell tv video

 

Omnibus classics

When the Monitor series stopped Russell continued mainly with the BBC´s Omnibus series. Without the supervision of Huw Weldon the films became more experimental and less acceptable to the general public. But they are a foretaste of the classic films he would shortly make.

 

1965 The Debussy Film

The Debussy Film

A film of a film with the director instructing the actor on the role of the composer Debussy. A film within a film is a common Russell motif, but here both plots (Debussy, the film) are equally important. Oliver Reed stars, and so plays both Debussy and the actor.  "Debussy was an ambiguous character and I always let the character of the person or his work dictate the way the film goes" (Russell quoted in Goodwin's Evil Spirits).

Russell saw Reed on Juke Box Jury, a British television programme and found the physical similarity between Reed and Debussy stunning.

Oliver Reed in The Debussy Film

Reed, confronted by the naked actress emerging from the swimming pool, is superb.  Other actors include Vladek Sheybal and Annete Robertson.

Vladek Sheybal in The Debussy Film

It is also the first collaboration with Melvyn Bragg who would write other television and film scripts for Russell, and would later become a novelist and arts presenter. Melvyn and Ken intended the script to be for the cinema but when no backer could be found after Russell's commercial failure, French Dressing, it was done as a TV film.

Russell's imagery was controversial. One of Russell's best scenes is the girl in the t-shirt in the water attached to a cross and being shot with arrows (a reference to The Martyrdom of St Sebastian- Derek Jarman also covered the same topic).  Russell for criticised because St Sebastian was played by a woman- he pointed out in Debussy's piece the role is sung by a woman.

The Debussy Film

The Debussy Film

The films starts and ends with a funeral procession...

The Debussy Film

... and is a film about a film, which allowed Russell more flexibility in the roles, avoiding the BBC strictures on using actors to portrayreal people in documentaries, as he was not portraying Debussy, but the actor in the film.  As usual there is stylish framing of shots.

The Debussy Film

The Debussy Film

The Debussy Film

Oliver Reed and Vladek Sheybal are particularly good.  Cinenatography is by John McGlashan and Ken Westbury and editing was by Ken regular Alan (sometimes Allan) Tyler.

Oliver Reed and Vladek Sheybal

Vladek Sheybal in The Debussy Film

 

More television

Click title for film Picture Stories (Charlotte Bronte) * Peepshow * Knights on Bikes * Amelia and the Angel, Lourdes * Poet's London * Gordon Jacob * Guitar Crazy * Variations on a mechanical theme, Two Painters * portrait of a Goon * Marie Rambert remembers * Architecture and entertainment * Cranks at Work * The miner's picnic * Shelagh Delaney's Salford * A house in Bayswater * The light fantastic * London Moods * Antonio Gaudi * Lotte Lenya sings Kurt Weill * Old Battersea House * Portrait of a Soviet Composer * Pop goes the easel * Preservation man * Mr Chesher´s traction engines * Elgar * Watch the birdie * The lonely shore * Bartok * The dotty world of James Lloyd * Diary of a nobody * The Debussy Film * Always on a Sunday * Don't shoot the composer * Isadora * Dante's Inferno * Song of Summer * Dance of the Seven Veils * William and Dorothy * The Rime of the Ancient Mariner * ABC of British Music * A British Picture * The Planets * Vaughan Williams * The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner * The Secret Life of Sir Arnold Bax * The Mystery of Doctor Martinu * Classic Widows * In Search of the English Folk Song * Stories of Seduction * Prisoners of Honor * Lady Chatterley * Alice in Russialand * Ken Russell's Treasure Island * Tales of Erotica * Dogboys, Brighton Belles * Elgar A Portrait of the Composer on a Bicycle * Lion's Mouth * The Fall of the Louse of Usher * Revenge of the Elephant Man (Hot Pants 1) * the Mystery of Mata Hari (Hot Pants 2) * The Goodship Venus (Hot Pants 3) * Advertisements * Trial of the Century * She's So Beautiful * Phantom of the Opera * Nikita, Cry for Heaven * Diana * Its all coming back to me now * Teenager in Love * The Death of Scriabin

 

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