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UK, 1966 (MIFF 2000, Sensational Symphonies – The Unseen Ken Russell)

Director: Ken Russell

Russell portrays the flamboyant dancer as a self-indulgent exhibitionist and vulgarian intent on shocking the world with her self-consciously outrageous behaviour, promoting the image of a free-spirited artiste and ultimately a pathetic individual entrapped in her own myth-making. The film opens with a Citizen Kane-March Of Time style pastiche which offers a capsule history of Duncan's life culminating with her freakish death in 1927 by strangulation when her scarf was caught up by a car wheel. Within the year Melvyn Bragg, Russell's erstwhile writing collaborator on Women In Love (1969) and The Music Lovers (1971), contributed a scenario for director Karel Reisz's feature version starring Vanessa Redgrave in the title role.

"Isadora seemed to embody the best and worst of an artist. She had genuine talent, some mystical insight, but she was a bit bogus as well. She had that touch of vulgarity which I think people connected with, she negated the esoteric idea of Art because she couldn't help but give it her own humanity. And though she was usually drunk or shacked up with some ne'er-do-well she always survived. She was just a great person and that was her art. God knows what her dancing was like. Pretty terrible I imagine. But that doesn't matter. She effected and moved and meant a great deal to a lot of people. Everyone who saw or came into contact with her came away a bit different, even Mother Russia and Father Stalin."—Ken Russell

See also...


The earliest example of Russell's composer portrait work is a fascinating biography of Sergei Prokofiev which utilise stock footage from Soviet propagand newsreels, stills and live action shots of ... More »


Russell is finally permitted to use a real person in close-up in a highly stylised meditation on the Hungarian born Bartok. ... "The film's structure is even more significant, especially the counter ... More »


Monitor's 100th program and a highly romantic interpretation of Elgar's life. For the first time actors in a documentary were permitted to play living persons on screen but only in long shot and in ... More »


One of Russell's most popular television works, inspired by Eric Fenby's memoir Delius As I Knew Him. The film centres upon the blind and paralysed composer Frederick Delius (Max Adrian), living out ... More »

Pop Goes the Easel

Monitor cameras spend a day — from dawn until midnight — with four young artists who between them have won critical acclaim, exhibition prizes and Art Council awards. Each of them has ... More »

Amelia and the Angel

An internationally acclaimed amateur film about a little girl in search of a pair of angel's wings. ... More »

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