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i Editor's Letter: Filmmaker Ken Russell


Ken Russell. In truth, he was not a huge influence on my life — apart from his Women in Love being the first time I saw male and female “bits”on TV.

I enjoyed Tommy and Altered States, but there were real shockers too. The Lair of the White Worm was “so bad, it’s good”. I will always remember Russell (appreciation p11) for something else — and not his 2007 Celebrity Big Brother stint.

Whore (1991) was a truly awful movie — to this day the only one I ever walked out of. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl had me tempted, but I couldn’t just leave two little girls to find their way home on the New York subway. Whore was billed as an “antidote’” to Pretty Woman. It was just that: lacking in charm and spirit, and a box-office bomb.

If it is my own cash I find it hard not to get full VFM. I've never left a gig or play early, even the RSC’s epic 1981 Oresteia cycle. I do have disturbing thoughts about people who exit football matches before the end, even the masochists at Elland Road or Craven Cottage, and cannot bear not to finish a book if I bought it. The exception to that rule being Midnight’s Children, and not just once.

I still feel guilty. Of course, there’s Finnegans Wake, but school paid for that — I hope. There was an opera: Harrison Birtwistle’s The Second Mrs Kong at Glyndebourne. I knew from the title, in truth, but I had not been to Glyndebourne before and I was a guest. After an hour of biros being scraped madly across a computer keyboard with the odd vuvuzela thrown in (“untuned percussion” is the technical term), I looked at my kind hosts imploringly in the break and we took a wise decision: to crack open another bottle and enjoy the Sussex countryside. Now, if I’d have been paying...

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