9 June 2014

The Devils

The Devils 1971
  • Director: Ken Russell
  • Based on a novel by Aldous Huxley
  • Cast: Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Jones, Dudley Sutton, Murray Melvin,  Michael Gothard, John Woodvine
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Oliver Reed - Gladiator, Tommy, Women in Love, Oliver!
    • Vanessa Redgrave – Atonement, Girl Interrupted, The Cradle Will Rock, Lulu on the Bridge, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Howards End, The Ballad of the Sad Café, Playing for Time, Prick Up Your Ears, Oh What a Lovely War, Isadora, Camelot
    • Gemma Jones – Merlin, Harry Potter, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Longitude, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, The Merchant of Venice
    • Dudley Sutton – Wallander, Song for a Raggy Boy, Orlando, The Widows
    • Murray Melvin – Phantom of the Opera, The Onedin Line, Barry Lyndon, Alfie, A Taste of Honey
    • Michael Gothard – Ivanhoe
    • John Woodvine – Hamlet, Miss Potter, The Other Boleyn Girl, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Pericles, Nicholas Nickleby, An American Werewolf in London, Macbeth, The Avengers
  • Why? Like it the first time.
  • Seen: In the 70’s when it came out.  Now June 7, 2014.
When we saw this in the 70’s, Hal and I, we were very impressed. It suited our iconoclastic, anti-authoritarian youthful selves.
We’re no longer youthful. We’ve waited a long time for this DVD. I’m curious. Will we be as impressed as before?
France. The 1600’s. War between the Catholics and the Huguenots.  The Catholic Church – Richelieu – and the French Monarchy – Louis XIII – win but want more. A powerful provincial priest (Oliver Reed) – a libertine desperately seeking the love of woman and of God – becomes the target of their lust for more power.  They use the madness of the Reverend Mother’s (Vanessa Redgrave) frantic sexual fantasies to accuse him of being possessed by the devil.
The film, in Derek Jarman’s vivid settings, wallows in grotesqueness, cruelty, orgies of violent misogynistic nakedness. There is a lot of shouting, and a lot of squealing of young girls (nuns) as though the handsome priest were a rock star.  It mocks the hypocrisy and depravity of both the church and the state.
No wonder we were impressed. It’s flawed but it’s still a powerful, gripping and iconoclastic film.

3 ½ * of 5

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