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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Devils (1971)

In 17th century France during the purging of Huguenots, Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Logue) urges his henchman (Dudley Sutton) to encourage the accusations of a demented hunchback nun (Vanessa Redgrave) in the city of Loudun that the town's priest (Oliver Reed) is in league with Satan. One of the, if not the, most controversial films of the 1970s, I'm not sure what to make of Ken Russell's THE DEVILS. A political tract on unchecked power and how religion is perverted and used in order to accomplish political aims or an over the top freak show? Or maybe a little of both. It's not a naturalistic film but a dreamy, surreal excursion and Russell pushes the envelope with as much religious sexual imagery as he can away with. Still, it isn't easy watching Vanessa Redgrave being sexually brutalized or Oliver Reed getting graphically tortured while hysterical nymphomaniac naked nuns attack any male in sight. But you have to hand it over to Russell, the excesses are intentionally humorous though your laughter might get stuck in your throat. The stunning art direction is by Derek Jarman and the dissonant underscore by Peter Maxwell Davies. With Georgina Hale, Gemma Jones, Murray Melvin, Max Adrian and Catherine Willmer.

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