Sunday, May 3, 2009
Day Ninety-Nine: Ken Russell's The Planets (1983) - Rank 3.5/5
As the title would indicate, Ken Russell takes Gustav Holst's work and accompanies it with imagery. The result is a work that is reminiscent of Reggio's "Koyaanisqatsi," which debuted earlier that year. I don't think it would be too far of a stretch to suggest that the film was quite possibly inspired by the film, though to say that it is an attempt to "cash in" on "Koyaanisqatsi" would be going to far (especially since "Koyaanisqatsi" wasn't a huge box office draw to begin with - that and this film was a made-for-television production for the BBC). No, the short film merely plays like a guilty indulgence on Russell's part, and suffice it to say, if this sounds like it would be a shameful pleasure for you as well, you'll undoubtedly dig it. If not, then 'nuff said.
Russell combines some fantastic imagery with the music, utilizing the theme of the planets to select the footage he wants. Mars, the Bringer of War, is accompanied by parades marching in honor of Hitler, Stalin and Mao, interspliced with explosions documented during WWII through the Vietnam War. Venus, Bringer of Love, primarily shows a nubile brunette posing naked on a beach front (the word "indulgence" quite apropos here - though what else would you expect from Russell?) with the occasional insertion of flowers, landscapes and other gorgeous imagery. Uranus, the Magician, is accompanied by a variety of religious figures carrying out their respective ceremonies, such as transforming the host into the body of Christ. The only downside to the project is all the footage is previously shot footage that Russell just had access to while editing. There didn't seem to be anything original shot for the feature. That little sticking point keeps Russell below the ranks of Godfrey Reggio, Ron Fricke and the like when it comes to films of this vein. But I suppose if you were to compare overall careers with one another, Russell would easily leave the others in the dust.