02 February 2006

Won't You Charleston With Ken Russell?

Rant of the Day: The Boyfriend - dir. Ken Russell - 1971 - UK/USA

As a huge Russell fan, I firmly believe The Boyfriend to be one of his most underappreciated (just ask B. who blasted it in his rundown of Russell flicks). It'd be one thing if Russell decided to adapt Sandy Wilson's ridiculous play The Boyfriend into a glorious Hollywood musical -- but that wouldn't be him. It'd also be another thing if he chose to cast supermodel, anti-fur activist Twiggy in her first film role as a gorgeous stage diva -- but that wouldn't be him either. Instead he's crafted a film about some rundown British theatre putting on -- for what seems to have been the hundreth time -- the play, with Twiggy as the coy assistant stage manager who, after the play's STAR Glenda Jackson is injured, also becomes the lead actress in the play. This would normally be the set-up for a conquering-the-odds, "my turn to shine" revelation for the Twiggy character, but it's not. The play is awful, and Twiggy is endlessly mediocre. And Russell, in full Russell mode, glorifies the play's wretchedness with costly fantasy musical numbers and magnifies Twiggy's mediocrity to a level of beautiful campiness. Sure, The Boyfriend is no Women in Love or The Devils, but it's totally one of Russell's tastiest of his lesser films. Watch this alongside Salome's Last Dance and have a wonderful B-grade Russell fest.


Anonymous said...

It's high time that The Boyfriend came out on DVD. I gather Russell considers it his worst film, but then artists are nevr the best judges of their own work are they? Let's have it on DVD pretty please!!

reassurance said...

Yes, please!

The worst part about watching it on VHS was that the whole thing was in pan&scan, except for one big number near the end.

And, I can't imagine that Russell honestly thinks The Boyfriend is worse than Fall of the Louse of Usher or even Lisztomania. I think it's wonderful. Glad to see I'm not the only one!

Klara Tavakoli Goesche said...

I too am glad to find fellow appreciators of "The Boyfriend." I can't believe or imagine how Russell himself doesn't realize the level of genius he captured in it. It is so layered... and the sheer brilliance of how everyone in the film is on his or her own 'trip'. It's a great metaphor for the stage - and life. I wrote this extensive post on how it was an alternate reality kind of experience for me on my blog: