Borges and I

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Another piece of revenant television to tick off the “When will I see this?” list, I mentioned David Wheatley’s film Borges and I back in January in a post about Wheatley’s dramatisation of the life and work of René Magritte. It was that student film that secured for Wheatley a job as a BBC director at a time when the Arena arts series was one of the best things being produced by the corporation. Borges and I was filmed in 1982 and broadcast a year later, an event I managed to miss to my considerable regret. Once again Ubuweb has turned up the goods with a copy from an American video tape. It’s not ideal—all the Spanish sequences would have been subtitled in the original broadcast—but I’m not going to complain. This 80-minute film is not only the best Anglophone documentary I’ve seen on Borges, it was produced in collaboration with the author who for much of the running time discusses his life and work in English. The tape copy also frustratingly lacks credits but the unseen American interviewer and narrator would appear to be translator and collaborator Norman Thomas di Giovanni, a writer who later found himself and his work marginalised by the Borges estate. Between the interviews and readings there are dramatised sequences from The Meeting, Funes, the Memorious, The South, The Circular Ruins, Death and the Compass, and The Sartorial Revolution, one of the collaborations with Adolfo Bioy-Casares. Plus, of course, the expected complement of mirrors, tigers and a duel with knives. The budget must have been generous: scenes were shot in Argentina and Uruguay, and we also see Borges at his favourite lodging in Paris: L’Hôtel in the Rue des Beaux-Arts, a building which now bears plaques celebrating the visits of Borges and another famous literary resident, Oscar Wilde.

Previously on { feuilleton }
René Magritte by David Wheatley
L’Hôtel, Paris
Borges documentary
Borges in Performance