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Ken Russell was a strange, strange man

The above is, of course, stating the obvious. But, prompted by my having finally got my hands on Dante's Inferno (it's on DVD as part of a box set called "Ken Russell at the BBC," and available from Netflix), it had to be said.

That said, the digressions into hallucinatory weirdness are (a) remarkably sparing, (b) mostly appropriate to the mental state of the individuals in question, and (c) much more theatrical than the sort of straight-up psychedelic I'm used to from Russell. Point (c) was probably more a function of budget than anything, but I'll take it. :-)

Through no fault of his own (other than being damned effective in a role I encountered at an impressionable age), Oliver Reed is always Bill Sykes to me, so it always takes me a while to adjust to him as anyone else. Even without that factor in play, though, I think he's more effective as the aging, mentally troubled Rossetti than the idealistic young artistic rebel. (As an aside, it amuss me immensely that, in various decades, the BBC has had the same guy played by Oliver Reed, Ben Kingsley and Aidan Turner. There's a variety pack for you!)

I love Judith Paris' Lizzie from top to bottom, apart from the choice to shorthand her class background with a Cockney accent and iffy manners. But she's smart and ambitious and temperamental and contrary and riveting to watch, and the idyllic and the toxic in her and Gabriel's relationship, as well as the complexities of who's at fault for what and when, are pretty much on the money. (Random fannish note: classic Who fans might recognize her as Eldrad. *g*)

Which unfortunately leaves everyone else rather a caricature, from a raucously giggling and anachronistically ultra-blonde Fanny (though I will give them credit for avoiding the "thieving whore" image perpetrated even by some individuals who knew her, and pointing up her loyalty during the worst of Rossetti's breakdowns) to a downright vicious characterization of Janey, silently but pointedly gloating toward the rapidly failing Lizzie and coldly ignoring her husband right to his face.

Very uneven overall, but certainly interesting, and with some very cool sequences and lots of good uses of various poems. My favorite bit of cleverness is probably the way this scene references Writing on the Sand, complete with Lizzie's bonnet flying away.

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