Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Can you say amanuensis? Got Delius?

Amanuensis (pronounced /əˌmænjuːˈɛnsɪs/) is a Latin word adopted in various languages, including English, for certain persons performing a function by hand, either writing down the words of another or performing manual labour. Literally translated it means "manual labourer".

You'll want to think about this term carefully as it describes one of the most interesting characters in all of Ken Russell's films: Eric Fenby. From 1928 to 1934, Eric Fenby was the amanuensis and the eyes for the composer Frederick Delius. If you are not familiar with Delius just as I wasn't before watching Ken Russell's "Song of Summer" (1968) you are really in for a treat. One who is not a classical music expert listens to a classical music station and can usually pick out Bach, Mozart and of course Beethoven but then other names pop up who are just as pivotal and they draw a blank. With Ken Russell's film catalogue, you triple your knowledge of composers and artists.

I don't want to give too much more away only that this film is beautifully photographed, Paul Robeson's signature song makes an appearance and Ken Russell himself gets down (literally) in church. Eric Fenby (a composer himself) is played by the marvellous Russell perennial, Christopher Gables in his debut role, giving what I feel is beyond Oscar worthy acting. He had previously been a dancer with the Royal Ballet and it shows. The real life Eric Fenby himself was a consultant for the film and requested to leave the set during rehearsals once because it flooded him with so many personal memories. He broke down after watching the final film and took the better part of year to get over the feelings that he said he'd repressed about their time together. When you see the film you'll understand why. Max Adrian as Delius is that man that scared you as a kid and is as manipulative as only an elderly person can be. He did not break my heart nor make me feel for his character's issues but I was in tears at the end.
One of Ken's most well received works. PLEASE WATCH, you will be moved. I'll be discussing "Song of Summer" all this week. 111 minutes long and the print transfer to You Tube is great.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't watched the whole thing for a long time. Never fails to move.

4:29 PM  

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