More Roegery. The recent BBC documentary about Nicolas Roeg has yet to appear on YouTube but this Guardian Lecture appeared there a few days ago. Roeg was in the news in 1983 following the release of Eureka, a film with a solid reputation today but one which the distributors weren’t happy with at the time. There’s no mention of these problems in this 37-minute interview with the late Philip Strick which ranges throughout Roeg’s career, and even includes some mention of his ill-fated plan to direct Flash Gordon for Dino De Laurentiis. It’s too short, of course, as these things always are, and Roeg has always been a somewhat rambling interviewee, but for Roeg-philes it’s worth a watch. The documentary I’d really like to see again is Nothing As It Seems: The Films of Nicolas Roeg, made the year before by Paul Joyce, and featuring contributions from two key collaborators: Donald Cammell and Paul Mayersberg.
If you’re an obsessive cineaste there’s a good chance you maintain a mental list of the films you’d like to see, the films you’d like to see again, and the films you’d like to see reissued on DVD. The vagaries of distribution and ownership often conspire to make older films fall out of sight even when they’ve been produced and promoted by major studios, have had TV screenings and so on. This was famously the case with five of Alfred Hitchcock’s features—Vertigo and Rear Window among them—which managed to remain out of circulation for two decades; more notoriously there was Stanley Kubrick’s neurotic embargo on any screening of A Clockwork Orange in the UK which meant that my generation of Kubrick-watchers had to make do with a variety of pirate VHS recordings.
Penguin edition, 1973. Photo by Van Pariser.
DVD reissues have chipped away at my “must see again” list with the result that Stuart Cooper’s The Disappearance (1977) recently found itself at the top of the catalogue. This film has never been as inaccessible as some: it received at least two TV screenings in the UK, and was available on VHS cassette for a time. There was also a DVD release although by the time I started looking for it the only available copies were secondhand ones commanding high prices. A year or so ago I read Derek Marlowe’s Echoes of Celandine (1970), the novel on which the screenplay is based, and as a result became more eager than ever to see the film again. Having finally watched a very poor-quality transfer of a VHS copy on YouTube I now feel sated, even if the experience was unsatisfying.
The Disappearance is one of those odd productions that ought to have all the ingredients to make a very memorable film but which never works as well as you might hope. The screenplay was by Paul Mayersberg, written between his two films with Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Eureka (1983); there’s a great cast: Donald Sutherland, David Warner, Peter Bowles, David Hemmings (who also produced), John Hurt, Virginia McKenna, Christopher Plummer; Kubrick’s cameraman of the 1970s, John Alcott, photographed the film shortly after winning an Oscar for his work on Barry Lyndon; the source material is very good: Marlowe’s novel is described as “a romantic thriller” but when the quality of the writing easily matches any literary novels of the period such a description makes it sound more generic and pot-boiling than it is.
Untitled painting by Suzanne Van Damme (1901–1986).
• Eric Berkowitz, author of Sex and Punishment: 4000 Years of Judging Desire, chooses five books for The Browser.
• Venus febriculosa is running another competition: Design a new cover for Brian Eno’s Music For Films.
• Paul Mayersberg and Tony Richmond on making The Man Who Fell to Earth.
When a good idea occurs, it has been prepared by a long time of reflection. But you have to be patient. We all have what I call the invisible worker inside ourselves; we don’t have to feed him or pay him, and he works even when we are sleeping. We must be aware of his presence, and from time to time stop thinking about what we are trying to do, stop being obsessed about answers, and just give him the room, the possibility, to do his work. He is tenacious, you see. He never loses hope.
• Louis Menand on “The Puns and Detritus in James Joyce’s Ulysses“.
• Saul Bass’s original ending for Phase IV unearthed in Los Angeles.
• Katherine Lanpher uses witchcraft to find a New York apartment.
• Italo Calvino’s adolescence – that in-between time.
• The early film posters of Waldemar Swierzy.
• David Toop has a blog.
• Bodies of Water (1995) by David Toop