Author Topic: "Best/Worst"  (Read 4373 times)

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Offline richmond74

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Re: "Best/Worst"
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2009, 02:24:16 PM »
In answer to the previous post I think ‘worst’ in this context is a Russell film with a genuine feeling or lack of insight into its characters or situations (which is why Tommy works more than Lisztomania, despite sharing some common elements and similar-ish approach; Women in Love v. The Rainbow to a lesser extent). Also I think it’s any film of his without that ability to visually distil  the truth (or truths) of a situation, if that makes sense e.g. The piano concerto sequence in The Music Lovers conveys so, so much, without saying a word. I guess it's a fusion of 'truth' interpreted in a visually dynamic manner (to me anyway).

A really hard task and not set in stone (Top three changes month-to-month), but here’s mine of the moment:

Top Three:

The Devils.

What more can be said? A triumphant collision of serious political drama and deliciously camp, black humour (“What’s that?”, “A Carrot!”) that pulls the rug out from under you at nearly every turn (camp musical masque into plague drama, then theological debate undercut by fevered sexual fantasies).  Visually one of the finest films ever made – no mean statement - it still reveals something new to me every time I watch it.

Delius: Song of Summer.

Taut, economical and moving. One of the finest visual insights into the musical creative process I’ve ever seen. Crisp scripting and the exhilarating juxtaposition of location – you can almost smell the lakes and woodland – and music. Whoever said Ken was not an actor’s director, should review this film, as the three central performances are some of the most truthful I’ve seen.


This one comes and goes from my list of favourites. At the moment it’s in there. A visually blistering attack of sound, colour, image and movement. Its invention, scene-after-scene, is hard to top and is easier to think of scenes that don’t work, because the list of those that do, far outweighs them. It’s hard not to feel elated after this one.

Bottom Three:


Despite some gloriously sexual pop-art sensibilities on display, this is let down by being a little too much tub-thumpingly metaphorical e.g.
Liszt as pop star, Wagner as Frankenstein’s Monster, etc. Although having said that, who else would have dared to go down that route? A film of great scenes (phallic musical number gets my vote) but no whole.


Passable but all too static for me. It really could have been made by anyone and has few ‘Russellisms’ to lift the fairly banal story).  I don’t much care for Crimes of Passion, but at least that had a more vivid viewpoint.


Why don’t I like this film more? It’s got dazzling visuals, some great use of camera and wonderfully chosen music, yet it doesn’t quite hang together. Nureyev is probably the main problem, but I’m not sure whether the script liked the man or not and meanders off a bit in the second half. Maybe it should have gone for a darker, pitch-black take on him. Mind you, I’d have this film any day of the week compared to the banal dross of much modern cinema.

Offline BoyScoutKevin

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Re: "Best/Worst"
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2009, 10:49:23 PM »
Is that a "good" sign or a "bad" sign, when there is so much disagreement about a director's "best" and "worst?"

Anyway, back to my original point, there ought to be a better way to pick his "worst" besides "unpopularity," when so many of us, including myself, have not seen his "worst." What would be the better way? That I have no idea.

Though, I'd have to agree about "Billion Dollar Brain." He may have made five worst films, but it is my least favorite of all his films I've seen. Indeed, I so detest it, if I had originally associated it with his name, I might never have seen another one of his films ever again.

Offline Iain Fisher

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Re: "Best/Worst"
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2009, 03:31:19 PM »
I agree about the comment that Valentino is not the worst of the worst (Stories of Seduction does belong there), it is more worst of the best.  My lists: to make it easier for me, I am only looking at films so excluding television.  And my choice of Ken's best films tends to change every week.

My best, not in order
These are films I will happily watch any time

The Devils
Savage Messiah
Women in Love
The Music Lovers
Salome's Last Dance
Honourable mention for
These are films I have to be in the mood for

French Dressing (I have a soft spot for the innocence in the film)
Gothic (it grows on me each time)
Whore (the film that drew me back to Ken's films)

The worst (or least best), not in order
These are films I don't play much

Billion Dollar Brain
Valentino (but there are good bits in it, and Nureyev was fine)
Lisztomania (even with the new DVD I still don't like it)

If you look at BoyScoutKevin's lists, and regal26's lists and my lists you get the typical Ken Russell phenomena, even fans can't agree on the good and the bad.  On the website there is a voting page, and every film (with one exception) has been voted best by someone and worst by someone else.  The Devils comes easily top (double the votes of the next film), and Lisztomania is often in the top 5 best films and top 5 worst films.

PS I won't say what the exception is, because then someone will vote for it!!

Offline regal26

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Re: "Best/Worst"
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2009, 03:00:58 PM »
I'd have to disagree about 'Valentino.'

I don't think it is as bad as everyone says it is. The set design is impeccable and Leslie Caron is wonderfully over the top as Nazimova. Yes...Nuryev's acting is not exactly stellar (though his dancing makes up for that). Despite a lot of the criticism directed at its accuracy, its no less fanciful than any of Russell's other biopics.

Other great Ken Russell films...

Isadora Duncan: The Biggest Dancer in the World
Delius; Song of Summer
The Boy Friend
Salome's Last Dance

The Russell films I wasn't so wild about were the least Russell-esque:

French Dressing
Billion Dollar Brain
Altered States (to a certain degree...the ending was a real cop-out)
Prisoner of Honor
Fall of the Louse of Usher

Offline BoyScoutKevin

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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2009, 10:33:52 PM »
Ken's "Best"

"The Devils"
"Women in Love"
"The Music Lovers"
"Savage Messiah"

I've had the good fortune to see all of these, but "Savage Messiah," and while few of these (IMHO) are his most "interesting" films, which I'll get to later, and few of these would appear on my list of his favorite films, I do think these are indeed the best films he has made up to this point.

Ken's "Worst"


Unlike Ken's "Best," I've had the misfortune or good fortune to see only two of these films in their totality: "Gothic" and "Valentino." And unlike his "Best," I don't think these are the "Worst" films he has made up to this time. These are only his "Worst" films that most of us have seen. For example, how many people have seen his "Women and Men: Stories of Seduction." At least something of Ken comes through in his "Gothic" and "Valentino." While in "Women and Men: Stories of Seduction," the cinematography may be nice, but Ken is so restricted by the actors, the script, the sets, there is little or nothing of Ken in the film. Thus, a much better candidate for Ken's "Worst" (IMHO) then some of those films listed.