Sunday, 7 June 2009

Women in Love

Alan Bates wrestles Oliver Reed in Women in Love.

1969, and Ken Russell's adaptation of the D.H.Lawrence novel Women in Love retains all the precision Ken Russell has for neoclassical pop industrialism, he is indeed the Savage Messiah, he is one of the Les Maîtres Fous of film. This perfectly placed in Color Me Kubrick with Ken Russell's cameo appearing in a "Mental Institution".

D.H.Lawrence was a great naturalist, akin to the likes of Walt Whitman in his views on what Freud calls Eros (Sexual Instincts) and this whole idea of repressed egos. My reading of D.H.Lawrence is limited to his essays Sex, Literature and Censorship and Psychoanalysis and The Unconscious as well as Fantasia of The Unconscious. The struggle between the emotion and the intellect, or as Freud would have it, Psychodymamics.

Ken Russell treats Lawrence with his own cheeky brand of perversity, this can only help scent Lawrence's often too rugged style on portraying relationships. I would sum it up by the way Miranda Richardson as Nurse Mary in the Hospital episode of Blackadder Goes Forth pronounces the word "Healthy". If Lawrence had his way it would all be about hiking through the bracken, beating one's chest at the firmament and embracing a heavy dose of lust feeling the grit between one's toes. However, Ken triumphantly employs humor to set off the paradoxes in our primal spirit.

More wrestling from Ollie Reed and Bates.

Women in Love closely follows the relationships between two couples. Class distinctions and the frictions caused by breed. Brutishness and finesse are used as transitions between each scene. On the whole Women in Love is less avant-garde then much of Kens other work, but it is beautifully shot and has Kens style of establishing new scenes with dialog rather then imagery. The nude wrestling scene with Alan Bates and Oliver Reed should be hailed as one of the most visually pleasant scenes ever created for cinema, I am wondering if this scene inspired Sasha Baron Cohen when he wrestled Ken Davitian naked in Borat.

Other scenes are composed beautifully such as Eleanor Bron eating a fig in the "proper manner" as Alan Bates describes its vaginal symbolism to a poised picnic audience. Two naked lovers found on the bed of a drained lake. Not to mention the hilarious dialog about Polyamory ending in the exchange of perspective when Jennie Linden tells Alan Bates that he must learn to like being alone, and he responds to a market vendor with "I'll have two cups of tea then".

Glenda Jackson playing dress-ups on a pretend train trip to Moscow opposite the excellent Polish actor Vladek Sheybal playing at Tchaikovsky.

Larry Kramer wrote the screenplay for Women in Love, he is most famous for his 1970's novel Faggots. So Ken Russell is currently busy in Croatia filming Moll Flanders. Have a look at Slim Freddie's interesting homage and introduction to Ken Russell on YouTube "On Ken Russell".

My previous posts on Ken Russell can be found here and here.

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