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Ken Russell Louse in the USA


Robert Sercombe was at the American premiere of The Fall of the Louse of Usher.  Here is his report of the showing for the Savage Messiah site...

The Fall of the Louse of Usher This is a bit late, but I wanted to describe Ken's appearance at the USA Film Festival with The Fall of the Louse of Usher.
Ken Russell in The Fall of the Louse of Usher The organizers ran a sincere but poorly-put-together video of filmclips; then Ken, new wife beside him, told us about the film and how it got made ... hilarious stories ... they showed "Louse".  It had been SRO to start, but as the film went on, ten or twenty people walked out, one muttering that he'd had all he could take.  Over 70, and Ken's still not housebroken!  He can still drive people from theatres in disgust and outrage!  Even these days, in the 21st century!  How many camera jockeys one-third his age can do that?!

One thinks one had seen everything, as one always does before the curtain goes up on a new Ken Russell film.  Two critics from the local daily sat beside my wife and me and stuck it out manfully, one of them writing a shell-shocked but ultimately sympathetic review the next day, with a lousy photo; the other critic wrote nothing, so must have been there for the experience. 

"Louse" was a hoot -- very funny in places, horrifying at others, with many scenes of great visual power when one least expects it, amidst a barrage of seeming tomfoolery; highly imaginative use of the very least of his resources (which is to say, virtually no budget -- a disembodied penis is represented by a Slinky toy rolling about on a tray -- but the slinky is RAINBOW-COLORED, of course); darkly sexy, tawdry, ridiculous, extravagant, overdone, overtheatrical, overvulgar, so provoking and overwritten one could hardly get one's mind around the ideas to absorb them ... i.e., a Russell finger exercise, a pleasant bagatelle from the Maestro in a playful mood. Don't miss it.

Bring someone you love and trust, and some people you despise. 

After, Ken and charming wife answered questions from the remaining core of Russell admirers -- I made the first comment, standing up to insist that the shooting and editing style of most film directors today owes everything to Ken's influence, more than to any other director except perhaps Orson Welles -- I observed that Coppola said he shot Apocalypse Now consciously in Ken's style ("I wish I had his budget," Ken added) -- then I got Ken's autograph on my hardcover of his autobiography.  I was sad that he seemed tired -- jet lag and who knows what else -- so I didn't bother him with conversation.  But he's been a hero of mine for a quarter-century, and my wife and I rejoiced that we could see him in the American so-called 'heartland.'"

Robert Sercombe


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