British director Ken Russell started out training for a naval career, but after wartime RAF and merchant navy service he switched goals and went into ballet. Supplementing his dancing income as an actor and still photographer, Russell put together a handful of amateur films in the 50s before being hired as a staff director by the BBC. Russell made a name for himself (albeit a name not always spoken in reverence) during the first half of the ‘60s by directing a series of iconoclastic TV dramatizations of the lives of famous composers and dancers. And if he felt that the facts were getting in the way of his story, he’d make up his own — frequently bordering on the libelous. If he had any respect for the famous persons whose lives he probed, it was secondary to his fascination with revealing all warts and open wounds.
A film director since 1963, Russell burst into the international consciousness with 1969’s Women in Love, a hothouse version of the D.H. Lawrence novel. No director… read more
As my friend Greg pointed out, this movie's so crazy that it's rarely mentioned that Richard Wagner is shown as a Nazi-loving vampire about halfway through. Perfect double bill with Alex Cox's similarly anarchic, anachronistic, and categorically insane "biopic" Walker.
In terms of sheer outrageousness, it'd be hard to beat Ken Russell's cartoonish biopic which drops historical accuracy entirely in favor of wacky comic book satire. It's not for all tastes, and may not be as deep or emotionally inspired as some of his other masterpieces, but this is a tremendously entertaining showcase for Russell's outrageous, witty imagination.
Also: Ruiz in Berkeley, the EU in Chicago and listening to Nina Menkes and Slavoj Žižek.
The British director was 84.