Category : Film
Category : Film
Ken Russell is the director of such films as The Devils, Women in Love, Tommy, The Music Lovers, and Altered States. Beginning today, Russell’s films will be playing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center for one week (many of which are unavailable on video), where Russell himself will be appearing each evening. Considerable thanks to Elize Russell and Shade Rupe for their invaluable assistance.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Wrestling nude with 83-year-old directors.
Guest: Ken Russell
Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: You got into a fight with Alexander Walker, a man who, by the way, you’ve outlived. Other critics have called your films monstrously indecent. Walker was not the first one. So why did you hit tap him on the head, or beat him on the head, with a newspaper. I’m curious. Do you remember what was going on in your mind at the time? Or did you finally have enough of all these critics who were needlessly shitting upon what I think is a remarkable output?
Russell: Well, I guess I got tired of him putting me down. When he said, “You change things. We actually see Oliver Reed’s testicles crushed.” And I said, “Excuse me. That’s in your mind.” We don’t see his testicles crushed. Because they weren’t crushed. Only in your dirty little mind, you pig. And so he took exception to that. So I hit him over the head with his own review. Which happened to be a tissue of lies from start to finish. So that was a reason.
Correspondent: One of the few filmmakers to really get pugilistic about your critics there.
Russell: Yeah, well, he shouldn’t have said that. I mean, we didn’t see Oliver Reed’s testicles crushed. He may have wished we had. But we didn’t.
Correspondent: It was really — you were sticking up more for Ollie than you were for yourself?
Russell: That’s right. Yes.
Correspondent: I’m curious about a couple of things I’ve heard. One being that Oliver Reed apparently slammed you to the kitchen floor so that you would include the nude wrestling scene in Women in Love. I’m not sure if that’s true. Wanted to run that one by you. There’s another rumor going around that Ollie and Keith Moon were so drunk on the set of Tommy that they were improvising their lines. And then there’s another one that you guys got kicked out of the resort that you were filming at because of Ollie’s behavior. First of all, I wanted to find out if these stories were true. And second of all, given that this obviously must have been a very difficult working relationship at times and I know that you Ollie again until Prisoner of Honor, what accounts for the delay between Tommy and Prisoner of Honor?
Russell: Well, the delay between the two films was simply down to the fact of availability. Oliver Reed was only available at certain times and he wasn’t available. In Prisoner of Honor, that was why I didn’t use him before.
Elize Russell: You got along with him well.
Russell: Yeah, I got along with him very well. He…
Elize Russell: He called him Jesus.
Correspondent: He called you Jesus?
Russell: Yes. That wasn’t a compliment.
Correspondent: (laughs) So a little tempestuous there.
Russell: (laughs) Yeah.
Elize Russell: But he did throw you to the floor and you said that he convinced you to do the scene.
Russell: Oh yes. Yes, he did. I wasn’t going to do the nude wrestling scene. Because I couldn’t think of a way to do it. Because nude wrestling was frowned upon in British cinema.
Correspondent: In more ways than one.
Russell: In more ways than one, yes. So finally, he agreed to do the nude wrestling as long as there was no nude wrestling to be seen. (laughs)
Elize Russell: And how did he convince you to do it in front of the fireplace?
Russell: Well, he dropped round to my house for supper and said, “It could be done! It was very simple to do.” And he showed me how easy it was. You just faced each other, put out your hand and shook it, and threw each other onto the ground.
Correspondent: Did he often persuade you to insert scenes along these lines? Because I’m sure it couldn’t have been limited to Women in Love.
Russell: No. It was one of his favorite methods of perusasion.
Correspondent: Throwing you to the kitchen floor? That wasn’t the only time then.
Russell: Oh no.
Elize Russell: There was a sword fight.
Elize Russell: But you won that one by mistake and closed your eyes.
Sally Potter is the writer and director of the 1992 film Orlando, adapted from the Virginia Woolf novel, which opens in re-release on July 23, 2010.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Hoping to live forever or die trying.
Guest: Sally Potter
Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: One interesting aspect about Orlando, from my standpoint, is that it’s almost a textual collage. You don’t really use a lot of the prose that’s in Virginia Woolf’s book. And if you do use it, you often modify one word or two words. There’s Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. There’s Joseph Addison’s The Tattler. There’s Shelley’s “I Arise From Dreams of Thee.” If you’re a literate person, there’s a smorgasbord of collage and possibilities. And I’m curious why you made this particular decision. Was the idea here to reinforce some of the sexism of the literary world? That Virginia Woolf’s true prose would not be represented in the film version of her work? What happened here?
Potter: Well, I think the essence of her prose is the skeleton of the film. I tried to make a distillation of what she’d done to further distill her own project of distillation. She writes in her diaries about wanting to exteriorize consciousness, writing in images rather than language. And where usually she was working with a kind of inner monologue — the stream-of-consciousness project through the word — in this case, she was working through the description of images that were like watching the inner mind unfold, but not as one individual’s mind. A kind of collective mind. Now she was also working with a tapestry of references. So the book is littered with one reference after another. When you go back to her diaries, and look at her essays — which I did — and go back to her sources, you see that she was doing a kind of postmodern collage herself.
Potter: So all I tried to do was stay true to that principle, but make it work in cinematic terms. Anything else would have been a disservice to her as a writer.
Correspondent: But in terms of using the other — mostly; in fact, all male — writers, instead of specific quotes — with the exception of, for example, the trial and the poetry scene with Greene, I’m curious how you made that selective process. Did some reference in the book cause you to grab for the Norton Anthology? What happened there? And also, I was curious in terms of changing one specific word from a passage. Did you encourage the actors to paraphrase from the script? Or did you actually have the…
Potter: Oh no no.
Potter: No. But I did so many drafts. My first draft — in fact, when I took it to my script editor at Faber & Faber. He picked it up, weighed it, and said, “Go and take out a hundred pages.” It was really long. The first adaptation. So it was clear that it had to be cut. And some words work spoken. And some words work written. And so through the very long development process — I mean, multiple redrafts and redrafts and redrafts. And Tilda [Swinton] reading aloud to me. And so on. First of all, I learned about the importance of things actually working, rather than working in theory, as you intended them, and to try to be very open to listening and observing what worked, and make things fit so that they had, in a sense, a natural feeling for voice and body of that particular actor who’s manifesting the idea. So that entails changing things from time to time. But, for example, Nick Greene’s satiric poem about Orlando and Orlando’s bad poetry are not in the book. I had to write them.
Correspondent: I figured as much.
Potter: From clues. So I had to fill in, in a way, certain gaps that, had she written them on the page, they would have had a different status. And also, from her, she does a sort of sketch of 18th century authors. And you know who she’s referring to. And again, I had to fill them with actual quotations. So my guiding principle always was: Stay true to the spirit and the intention, but not to the letter of the book.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Hoping to be frightened by The Motherland sometime soon.
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: It seems to me that you are really gravitating more towards this extremely dark expanse of human behavior. At least from my vantage point. And it seems that you really want to push further in this direction. And yet, to some degree, you almost stop short of really pushing yourself fully into something so dark. And I know you’ve got it in you. So I’m wondering: why ride the comic tone? Out of obligation to your readers? Or what here?
Weiner: Well, I think, for me, it always feels natural to have both. To have the darkness and the comedy. That’s just how I am as a person. And I think that my own family history has made me that way. There’s been horrible things that have happened, but me and my sister and my brothers always wind up laughing about it. Because what else can you do? But it’s interesting. That darkness. Because it’s a tough tension to maintain. And I don’t want… (pause) See, here’s the thing. I don’t think writers choose the books they’re trying to write. I don’t think writers choose the tone they’re going to take. I think that it’s a blood type. Like it’s what you’re born with. Stephen King gave the example. He and Louis L’Amour could be sitting at a pond. And Louis L’Amour would come up with this Western about water rights in a town that was having a drought, and what would happen? And Stephen King would write about something that comes slithering onto the banks, and first takes the dogs, and then takes the cattle, and then takes the kids. It’s just the way you’re wired. And I think that I’m wired, for good or for ill. I mean, there was a lot of sad stuff in Good in Bed too.
Correspondent: That’s true. But we’re talking about rape.
Correspondent: We’re talking about neglected children.
Correspondent: And during those sections in both of these last two books, it gets really, really serious.
Correspondent: And then we go back to the laughs. But I’m wondering why not go ahead and spread this further? It’s not to say that you can’t explore light and dark. You can do a double plot thing. Like Crimes and Misdemeanors or something. I don’t know.
Weiner: (laughs) And then when you turn the book over…
Correspondent: (laughs) Yes.
Weiner: …they go shoe shopping!
Correspondent: Yeah, exactly.
Weiner: Well, who’s doing that well? Zoe Heller obviously.
Weiner: Who else? Who do you like? Because Zoe Heller’s funny too.
Correspondent: I’ll bring up Richard Russo. Richard Russo does that very well too. And in fact, I….
Weiner: Mmmmm. My mother loves him.
Correspondent: I’m trying to go ahead — you and Russo are actually on the same team here. You know, that whole description of the development of the grocery store?
Weiner: Yes. Yes.
Correspondent: I could find that in a Richard Russo book, as I could in a Jennifer Weiner book. He writes about this kind of stuff too.
Correspondent: You write about this too. And I’m telling you. What do we do to get some kind of diplomacy here?
Weiner: But I…
Correspondent: It’s not Russo’s fault that your mother was blabbing about him!
Weiner: Oh my god.
Correspondent: It wasn’t his fault.
Weiner: Okay, let me set the scene for you. The year is 2001.
Weiner: And my first book is out. And I’m in a bookstore with my mother. And I’m signing stock, as you do. And my mother, who is very friendly and chatty. This woman comes up to her and says, “Oh, I need a great book for the summer. Have you read anything?” And my mother says, “I just read the best book. It was funny and it was sad. And the characters felt so real.” And I’m like, “Wait for it. Wait for it.” And my mom’s like, “It’s called Empire Falls by Richard Russo.” And I’m like, “Mom!” Because do you think that Richard Russo’s mom is up in Maine pimping my books?
Correspondent: But your mother was probably pimping your book too!
Weiner: Uh uh.
Weiner: Mmm mmm.
Correspondent: Not at all?
Weiner: Well, maybe a little bit.
Correspondent: Oh okay. Well, there you go.
Weiner: But I think the woman asked what she read that she loved. And I think that [my mother] read Good in Bed in galley months ago. But, no, I love Richard Russo. But I don’t know.
Correspondent: So wait. You have read him.
Weiner: Of course!
Correspondent: Okay. Okay. So this is…
Weiner: I’m not a philistine here!
Correspondent: (laughs) So what’s the issue here? It can’t just be your mom. There’s something else going on here.
Weiner: I like Richard Russo. Have I talked smack about him?
Correspondent: Yeah. You’ve been suggesting, “Oh. Richard Russo. I don’t talk about him because of this whole mother thing.”
Weiner: It’s a joke! It’s a joke!
Weiner: I like him. I don’t like Jonathan Franzen.
Weiner: But I don’t think Jonathan Franzen likes anybody. So I think it’s all good. Like I don’t think he wants me — I don’t know? Does he want to be liked? Did you read the essay that his girlfriend wrote?
Weiner: Where was it? The Paris Review?
Correspondent: Kathy Chetkovich. It was in Granta. [EDITORIAL NOTE: Issue 82, to be precise. Now behind a paywall, but an excerpt appeared in The Observer. See above link.]
Correspondent: Yes. Exactly.
Weiner: Weird guy. About birding.
Correspondent: Yeah, I know. But actually, since we’re talking about the literary world…
Correspondent: I should also bring this up. Why give so much credit to The New York Times Book Review? I mean, this whole thing with the full-page advertisement.
Weiner: I know.
Correspondent: And I read your Twitter feed. And I know that you’re there on a Friday afternoon. At 5:00. When they put up the new articles. And you are looking through those articles.
Correspondent: Why? Why give these folks credence?
Weiner: Well, you know what it is? They’re kind of the only game left in town. The Philadelphia Inquirer, where I used to work, once had a free-standing books section. And there used to be — I think the Hartford Courant, where I grew up, had a books section once upon a time. But honest to god, the truth is that my dad read The New Yorker and read The New York Times Book Review, and would get all of his reading suggestions from those two places. So if you weren’t in there, you didn’t really matter. And I think that I internalized that to a very great extent. But honestly, I think that the die was cast when I went with Atria instead of Simon & Schuster. Like way back in the day. When I was choosing who was going to publish my first book. And it’s like, well, Atria is much more commercial. And I knew that I loved my editor. I love my editor still. I love my publisher. They got the book. Like on a really visceral level. They were going to a great job of promoting it. Do a great job with me. But I wasn’t going to get reviewed by the Times. But then again, if you call your book Good in Bed, are you ever going to get reviewed by the Times? I don’t think so.
Correspondent: Unless you name it The Surrender.
Dan Ariely is most recently the author of The Upside of Irrationality.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Looking about for Dichter’s egg.
Author: Dan Ariely
Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: The question is whether or not there is some kind of maximum threshold. An escalation of that one item that makes something unique before we realize that it’s really a ruse.
Ariely: I don’t think so. I think that we’re actually going the other way in terms of society. A long time ago, we had to hunt and spend time finding food and cooking and so on. And right now, you can do it in thirty seconds. So what do you do with the rest of the time? I think we get conceptual conception. I mean, we’re still occupied with consumption. But it becomes much more about the idea behind it right now rather than the thing itself. You know, we can get enough food. That’s no problem. It’s about: what does the food mean and what do the clothes mean and the vacation that we get. And so on. As we strive more for meaning and ideas and stories, I think that actually we get more and more involved in this aspect of loving what we create. By the way, I also think this has a lot to do with how things turn out in the housing recession. As the housing market was going down and down and down, Zillow — the website — they did a survey that asked people, “Have houses in your community lost value?” People said yes. “Has your house fallen in value?” And people said absolutely no. And I think that the reason is that we have our own house and we’ve tailored it just to ourselves. So we put much of ourselves into it. And we expect other people to value it. Maybe not as much as we do, but to a much larger extent. So people become immune from thinking that other people don’t see things in the way that they do.
Correspondent: We’re talking about that interval between social norms and market norms. Obviously, you’re dealing largely with behavioral economics. But in this case — like, say, a home — we almost have a social and a market norm. And so, as a result, it becomes a dicey proposition when we’re trying to analyze why people place this extraordinary value on their own particular possessions. Because it may not necessarily be interpreted — at least from their perception — as a possession.
Ariely: Yeah. So housing is complex. Again, it’s one of those things that, when you try to get people to think about the house from the perspective of the market, they have a hard time. First of all, they are connected to the price they bought the house at. It’s irrelevant, right? It’s irrelevant how much you bought the house versus how much you can sell it for. But people get attached to it. But on top of that, I talked with many real estate agents. And they say that when they get a seller to express a price, if they get an offer that is way too low, they take it as a personal offense.
Ariely: It’s not a personal offense! But, no, people really get upset.
Correspondent: Well, you were upset when they did the same to your house. When you had taken out the walls and they asked you to put them back in so you could sell the home.
Ariely: That’s right. So assuming that I did lots of changes to a house and made it just so — so we loved it — lots of other people loved it as well, but didn’t want to live in it. And eventually what we did was we put some walls back. We changed some of the beautiful things we’ve done for our purposes. And actually so many people wanted to see it afterwards then. All these changes. It was really heartbreaking.
Correspondent: But there’s also an interesting irony there. About something that you’d customized.
Correspondent: It becomes off market.
Ariely: That’s right.
Correspondent: So I guess we need to start off with a baseline item for market value. And then we get into a tricky situation where our own personal — the unique qualities we place…
Ariely: The unique taste that you have might also make the house less valuable.
Ariely: But it’s very hard to see it. Because if you like blue, it’s very hard for you to understand that people might not like blue windows. Or blue something. Especially if you spend lots of time and energy on it. And you do it just so. It’s really hard to imagine. I mean, I can tell you as somebody — so I wrote a couple of books. It’s the same thing. I invested a tremendous amount of effort and energy into those things. And if somebody doesn’t like them as much as I do, I don’t understand how can that be. Right? I expect everybody to love these books. In fact, in my view, they’re better than any other book in the world almost.
Ariely: But once you invest so much effort, you get blinded to the projection of other people.
Correspondent: But how does humility factor into something like this? Just from a scientific standpoint. I mean, I don’t think you really believe these two books are the best books in the world.
Ariely: No, I don’t. (laughs)
Correspondent: I’m going to have to break it to you. You know, if I had a choice between your book — which is great!
Correspondent: I would choose Ulysses over that. No offense.
Ariely: Well, talk to my mother.