Ken Russell, 1927 – 2011


Ken Russell with wife Lisi Russell and actress Vanessa Redgrave at a Film Society screening of The Devils (1971) in 2010. Photo by Godlis.

The film world suffered a great loss this weekend with the news that influential and adventurous British filmmaker Ken Russell passed away at the age of 84 in his home on Sunday.

Russell is perhaps most famous for his film adaptation of The Who's rock opera Tommy (1975), but fans of cinema know that his list of credits and accolades is long and diverse. After being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director relatively early in his career for Women in Love (1969), Russell went on to build a cult following with his send-ups of classical composers in Mahler (1974) and Lisztomania (1975) and his forays into science fiction and the occult in The Devils (1971), Altered States (1980), and The Lair of the White Worm (1988). He was twice nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, individually for Mahler and as a group for omnibus film Aria (1987).

In 2010, Film Society of Lincoln Center was honored with a rare, extended appearance by Russell during our week-long retrospective of his films, "Russellmania!" The director gave an unprecedented six personal audiences in the Walter Reade Theater, where he led post-screening discussions of some of his most seminal and beloved films.

Film Comment magazine has a long history with the filmmaker and commemorated his passing by republishing as online exclusives Gene D. Phillips’s interview with Russell from 1970 and Stephen Farber’s review of Lisztomania and consideration of the importance of Russell's work from 1975.

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