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Beyond Our Ken

Stuart Bailie | 10:29 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011

I saw Ken Russell's Tommy at the Avenue cinema on Belfast's Royal Avenue in 1975. It was X rated and I was barely out of short trousers, but I think they were glad of the trade - the picture house was chiefly showing porn films at this stage and a 'proper' movie was possibly not great for business.

So myself and some school friends were introduced to Russell's barmy manner. He used music to inflame the senses. The film was absurdly overdone and sensual without the slightest apology. Eric Clapton played 'Eyesight To The Blind' in a throbbing temple to Marilyn, as the faithful washed down their sacred pills with vodka. Elton John battered out 'Pinball Wizard' in enormous DM boots while Anne Margaret was deluged in soap suds, chocolate and baked beans. Blimey.

We congratulated ourselves for understanding Ken's use of metaphor and parody. We were transfixed by Tina Turner and her gyratory ways as the Acid Queen. Prior to this, we had only seen racey footage in the school film society, when we sat through the interminable Weekend by Jean Luc Godard, because we heard there was a hot scene somewhere. So Tommy was quite a tonic for a 14 year old. With respect to Ken, I'm not sure I'd watch it so keenly now.

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