Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Ken Russell Conference, Kingston University July 2017

A fascinating time was had at a beautifully organised conference in Kingston University this week, where Russell scholars from Britain (a good many of them from Aberdeen, obviously a stronghold for Culture), Serbia, Japan and Germany joined fans from Austria and England to watch and listen to presentations by me and others. The highlight of highlights, excepting my clips from Cinerama Holiday to explain Russell's use of 3D space, was Murray Melvin holding forth with a fat bloke in a nice linen jacket. Among the other highlights was UEA's Richard Farmer screening the Black Magic commercial Ken Russell made in 1965 for more money per foot than Dr. No. Filmed in an Italian castle, it looked like a cross between Mario Bava and Women in Love.
The downside was too many speakers having no knowledge of Ken's 35mm film work pre-Women in Love, and too much quoting of duff articles by duff 'critics' in duff publications.

Murray Melvin discusses his starring role in Ken Russell's Diary of a Nobody (1964) with Paul Sutton at Kingston University, July 2017

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

I'm pleased to say that I'll be making one of the keynote presentations at the 3-day Ken Russell conference at Kingston University, near London, this coming weekend, July 14th-16th . The conference has delegates arriving from Germany, Hungary, Japan, the United States and, possibly, Wales. As well as several favourite Russell scholars from England, including Brian Hoyle and Linda Ruth Williams.
I'll also be interviewing on stage the very wonderful Dr. Murray Melvin. Actually that's Dr. Dr. Murray Melvin for he has two honorary doctorates for being one of England's finest men.
The conference has been put together by Dr. Matt Melia, who hails from the wrong side of Liverpool, but you will have heard how good he is on the blu-ray commentary for Lair of the White Worm, one of the fascinating B-movies Ken made on a budget that was lower than Howard Hawks' The Thing.

Here's the abstract for my talk, though it doesn't really do it justice. Amongst other things I'll be explaining The Russell Trinity, one of the techniques he pioneered to advance the grammar of film (clue, it involves using sculptured props as a narrative device in the symbolic tranformation of a man into The Everyman and Christ) and I'll be showing some surprising film clips, such as the train ride from Cinerama Holiday (what's that got to do with Ken Russell? Nothing, but...)

Paul Sutton analyses examples of three categories of three-dimensional art, a) photographic space, b) sculpture, and c) dance, that span the breadth of Russell’s career, to show that three-dimensional art is a constant and a defining characteristic of the Ken Russell film style. He shows how Russell’s use of space, dance, statuary, figurines and sculptured props goes beyond interlude and set dressing to shape performances, and to add subtext, authority, metaphor, autobiography and humour to Russell’s attempts to realise his stated main aim of pure cinema: “that instantaneous encapsulating of someone’s entire life, or so many crucial years, in images.” (Russell talking to Ric Gentry, Post Script v2:3 Summer 83)

Here's a screengrab of the incredible sculptured prop made by Christopher Hobbs for Ken Russell's The Devils:

The Christ statue in a still-banned scene from The Devils

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Charlie Ellis and the Day Trip to Mars is now on sale

It has only taken me about fifteen years, but I'm pleased to be able to say that my novel, Charlie Ellis and the Day Trip to Mars is now on sale.

The inspiration to writing it came when I was in Poland in 2002 visiting the filmmaker, Marek Piwowski, who features in my first book 'Lindsay Anderson, The Diaries' (published by Methuen). On route to Warsaw to take Marek a copy of my book of the Anderson Diaries, I read in the inflight magazine, the simply wonderful true story of the Polish polar explorer Marek KamiƄski, who had walked to both ends of the Earth with a teenage boy, Jan Mela, who had lost an arm and a leg. I wondered what would happen if a British explorer did something so bold and remarkable. Would the British press, public and politicians over-react in that very British way and destroy them?
And I got reading Jules Verne, and saw that he was attempting to include all of man's knowledge into his books and then to advance on that knowledge. I decided to take a similar approach with Charlie Ellis, to go beyond man's current understanding of Science and to interweave into that a connoisseur's guide to the arts and Pop Culture. So Charlie and his engineer, Steve Atherton, are Elvis Presley fans  (the police are named after Tony Alva and Jay Adams, the famous skateboarders from Dogtown). Charlie and Steve attempt to remake Charles Eames's film Powers of Ten, and they start their every adventure with a playing of their favourite song, Elvis Presley singing 'Life'. When things get rough, they decide to go out like The King himself.
In honour of Kaminski and Mela, the first book of the Charlie Ellis series ends with our adventurers on the ice of the planet of Pluto.

Those good folks at Starburst, Britain's best science fiction magazine, have reviewed the book here.