It just doesn’t get much better than this: a new movie by one of my favourite directors, set in Boleskine and at least indirectly about Aleister Crowley. This from today’s (UK) Times, written by the great Ken himself…
Ken Russell on his new film ‘Bravetart’
What better way to celebrate Christmas than to begin filming another mini-masterpiece, God willing? It’s a season of miracles, after all. Many of the presents under my tree had to be opened before Christmas and are taking over the conservatory, which is buried in bundles: swords, battle-axes, spears, masks, hats, fishnets, knee socks, crystal balls, magic wands, witches’ hats, wigs of every colour, false teeth, fake blood, Billy Connolly CDs, bagpipes, corsets, kilts, mini-kilts, sporrans, tams, magicians’ cloaks, tartan, plaid and more tartan . . .
Yes, my latest biographical romp, Bravetart vs the Loch Ness Monster, began filming last Sunday at the stately Walhampton School, a couple of miles up the road from my home in Lymington.
There was a time, back in the middle of the past century, when I was known for my drama-documentaries on the lives of famous dancers such as Isadora Duncan, painters such as John Everett Millais, poets such as Wordsworth and composers such as Debussy. I made almost 50 biographies in all — mostly for the BBC arts programme Monitor, with a film crew of half a dozen or so. There were also a handful of feature films on arty biographical subjects, with crews of about 50.
Half a century later, I’m still at it. I still celebrate inspiring artists, but my current biographical subjects are just as liable to be social misfits whose heroism gallops down backstreets into the land of postmodern chaos. Their creative process may be making art with a paintbrush in their teeth (Revenge of the Elephant Man), raising an army from disparate tribes (Boudica Bites Back), spying (Mystery of Mata Hari), raising the dead (Louse of Usher) or saving one’s family from a bloodthirsty magician (Bravetart). I like to stretch the parameters of expectations — and flirt a little with the edges of bad taste. All in all, I aim for “dangerous beauty”, and I know it when I see it.
Which brings us to the second Loch Ness Monster. I’m sure some of you have already guessed that I’m referring to that evil master of black magic, Aleister Crowley — who at one time lived in a sinister castle on the very shores of Loch Ness itself (before Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin bought it in a moment of rock-star hubris, only to sell it after it proved to be haunted).
But of course Gorsewood Films (my answer to Hollywood) won’t be going to Scotland; no need to when we have Hatchet Pond in the New Forest as a credible stand-in. That plus a dozen kilts and a visit to the Just for Fun joke shop in Southampton should see us through our tale of Highland murder, mists, magic, mischief, mentalism and the martial arts. And as a bonus, the medieval walls of Southampton will adequately provide a replica of Edinburgh Castle.
Bravetart MacDonald, our matter-of-fact hooker with a heart of gold and a brogue as thick as her boot soles, comes from a family of entrepreneurs — all in the flesh trade. Brother and sister arrive as paying guests at Crowley’s castle to participate in a wild haggis hunt, sponsored by Crowley and his trusty henchman MacHaddock (played by Barry Lowe). How the MacDonald siblings end up in a coffin floating down Loch Ness, and Bravetart challenges the magician Crowley to a battle of wits and swordplay — with a bewitched, man-eating haggis joining the fun — are just more thrilling episodes in this bizarre and touching tale.
What is MacHaddock hiding under his kilt? Is Bravetart a common whore or a real-life Highland heroine? Is Crowley pure evil or do his feelings for Nessie and MacHaddock imply a tender side? Will the auld MacDonalds be restored to their clan glory, or will the family end up as fast food for a sea serpent’s snack?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot? Never! Hoots mon and a happy Hogmanay from all at Gorsewood. And some good news: the mini-epic Bravetart vs the Loch Ness Monster will be available by Easter 2009 on a website near you. And may you, like my cast and crew of seven after a hard day’s night, sit down to a pre-Christmas feast with lashings of home-made pizza, mince pies and plenty of plonk. Hame is wherr the hert is.
Sounds like an absolute hoot!