DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Lindsay Anderson Day

 

‘There are few directors left who can stir anarchic ideas as well as the late Lindsay Anderson could. Born in 1929, he began directing in 1948, making documentaries, and in 1955 he won an Academy Award for his short documentary Thursday’s Children. However, his revolutionary views began to take fruition as he became involved with and co-founded the Free Cinema movement of the mid-50s. Similar to independent movies, these productions were free from large studio interference and made on a small budget.

‘The first full-length feature of Anderson’s arrived in 1963 with This Sporting Life. Still retaining the characteristics of Free Cinema, the movie stars Richard Harris as a lovelorn rugby player. In some respects, Anderson directed as if he was making a documentary, retaining a realism to the point where the emotions become bleak and even hopeless. He followed this with the 1967 short film The White Bus, memorable for having the first onscreen appearance of Anthony Hopkins.

‘In 1968 though, Anderson fired his creative bullets into the heart of all things British when he began his Mick Travis series. A trilogy of films, the movies both defined the filmmaker he was and very nearly destroyed all he had accomplished.

If…. (1968)

“One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place” – Mick Travis

‘Simply put, If… is the pin pulled from a cinematic grenade. A vision of revolution immersed in darkness and set in the most British of institutions – the public boarding school. It is amongst this concrete setting that the world is introduced to Mick Travis and the blue-eyed venomous charm of actor Malcolm McDowell.

‘This actor is the common denominator linking the trilogy and the muse Anderson uses to project his ideals. It is within the confines of If… where McDowell as the protagonist Travis lets loose his onscreen presence that would become Alex DeLarge two years later in Stanley Kubrick’s ultra-violent epic A Clockwork Orange.

If… mirrors the protest counterculture movement of the late 60s. But the protest is sown within violence and not simply ‘flower power’ notions. The story is that of three students returning for a new term – Travis, Wallace (Richard Warwick) and Johnny Knightly (David Wood). This trinity of rebellious attitudes are shown belittled, tortured by older students and masters within the institution. Until one day they decide to rise up and from the roof of the boarding school they open fire on the establishment below.

‘The movie centres around the need for humans to question the belief systems of society. Meanwhile, the film blends colour and black-and-white scenes to help disorient viewers as If… moves from reality to the boys’ fantastical savage insurrection.

O Lucky Man! (1973)

‘In a switch of themes, O Lucky Man! is less anarchic of a piece than If…, boasting a thread of hopelessness and an undeniable realism. Again, the audience is presented with the character of Mick Travis.

‘In O Lucky Man!, however, he is not the figurehead of rebellion. Instead he is one of acceptance, even pity, as the character is re-introduced as a down-and-out thief – who, after trying to steal coffee beans on a Latin plantation, faces having his hands cut off for the menial crime. This monochrome opening scene fades to reveal the word ‘Now’, showing the former to be a fantasy, as the actual narrative focuses on Travis as a coffee salesman.

‘Over the extensive three-hour running time, the audience follows Travis on his journey and his desperation to survive, something which leads him into a world of corruption involving foreign dictators and chemical warfare. This is until he is found guilty of fraud and sentenced to prison. In some ways O Lucky Man!’s theme is reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange as McDowell’s Travis emerges from prison greater in tune with his humanity. Like the Kubrick film, this leaves him more defenceless to the evils of the world around him.

‘In the final scenes, the art itself plays out in reality, after Mick auditions for an acting role and Anderson himself plays the part of the director. Again, the mix of monochrome and colour scenes create tension, although the audience is unaware of why there is such a taut atmosphere at times.

‘In a way this is representative of post-war Britain, a frustration within the working classes in the surrounds of a decaying empire. Not as incendiary as the previous installment If…?, O Lucky Man! is still a mesmerising piece of work.

Britannia Hospital (1982)

‘The last installment of the Mick Travis Trilogy, Britannia Hospital is a more satirical affair. Misunderstood upon release, it is the watermark of the trio. The movie takes an artistic swipe at the establishment as a whole – the media, health service, trade unions, television, science, and even the monarchy.

‘All this is twisted inside a world somewhere between the slapstick of the Carry On series of movies and a low budget Hammer Horror scarefest. Again, Mick Travis enters the cinematic frame, this time as a reporter. We find him busy shooting a documentary about the dubious Britannia Hospital, and the work of Professor Millar (Graham Crowden, reprising a role from O Lucky Man!).

‘As protesters picket outside the hospital, the Queen arrives by ambulance to open a new wing. In the confusion, Travis breaks into the building’s latest addition and finds human experimentation and murder. Though Travis himself meets an end, his head is used as part of a grim Frankenstein-like experiment.

‘Upon awakening, this monster attacks the professor, biting the hand that feeds it, only to have its head torn off, ending the journey of Mick Travis. This scene alone is an act of revulsion which depicts the state of a nation, unable to face the truth of itself. This is perhaps the main reason why the film – which pulls comedy from chaos with skill – was critically hammered in Britain upon release and viewed as insulting. Outside the country it was met with applause and Anderson spent the remainder of his career in the US.

‘Shortly before his death in 1994, Paramount Pictures apparently commissioned a script for a proper follow up to If…. This went as far as seeking and securing permission to film at Cheltenham College, the location of the original.

‘Hinting of a final reprisal by Anderson of his most enduring character, all fans of the filmmaker are now left asking is what if…?’ — Kevin Burke

 

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Further

Lindsay Anderson Foundation
Lindsay Anderson @ Senses of Cinema
Lindsay Anderson @ IMDb
Book: ‘Lindsay Anderson Revisited Unknown: Aspects of a Film Director’
Lindsay Anderson @ The Criterion Collection
Podcast: BBC Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs, Lindsay Anderson
Book: ‘Lindsay Anderson Diaries’
Lindsay Anderson and The 3 Mick Travis Films
Lindsay Anderson @ MUBI
Book: ‘Lindsay Anderson: Cinema authorship’
The Lindsay Anderson Collection
If… Sentenced to a lifetime of stress
Why If… remains one of the most revolutionary British films ever made
Why Britannia Hospital remains a savage British satire
FILMING IF…. DAVID WOOD, ONE OF BRITISH CINEMA’S MOST REBELLIOUS CHILDREN
The spirit of 1968?
“A Bullet in the Right Place”: On the 50th Anniversary of Lindsay Anderson’s “if….”
Obituary: Lindsay Anderson

 

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Extras


Lucky Man – A Portrait of Lindsay Anderson


Lindsay Anderson on Tokyo Story


Memories of Lindsay Anderson Documentary (Preview)

 

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INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN FREARS – ON LINDSAY ANDERSON AND IF….

 

Do you remember first meeting Lindsay Anderson?

I met him in Majorca. He’d gone out to meet Dan Massey to get him to work for him. That was the first time I saw him.

What do you remember from the first meeting?

Not very much! (Laughs) I used to go down from Cambridge to see plays at the Royal Court, and there I realised how brilliant he was.

So when did you become his assistant at the Royal Court?

I finished Cambridge in 63 and I became an assistant in 64. I was really an assistant to Anthony Page. Lindsay wasn’t officially at the Court but he was there most days.

What kind of experience did you have with him there?

Well I was really out of my depth at the Court. I was a boy from the country, a boy from the provinces. But you had to have your champion. There were these brilliant men, Bill Gaskell and John Dexter. And Lindsay looked after me. So he was kind. But at the same time also shouty.

But you got on with him quite easy then?

Yes.

How did you get to be his assistant on if….? Did he just come out and ask you?

No, by then I had become a director. And then I must have been doing nothing. Maybe someone said, Can you come down and help?

​So what did you know about if…. before going in?

I remember reading the script. I was working at Memorial Enterprises, Albert Finney’s company, and I remember the script coming in. Well, I remember Lindsay bringing it in. First it was called The Crusaders, then Come the Revolution. Then a woman called Daphne Hunter, who’d been Lindsay’s secretary at the BFI said, Oh for goodness sake just call it if…. And it stuck. She just got cross and said call it if….

And he added the four dots?

Yes. And I remember at a screening… my then wife who edits the London Review of Books, saying, Should it be three or four dots? Are there four full stops?

Four, yes.

She questioned whether it should be four. I think she got a bollocking for that. And also for calling it a movie.

So he had already done This Sporting Life then hadn’t he? And all the great shorts too.

Yes but I didn’t know them. Gradually I got to know them, but I did see This Sporting Life at the time. This Sporting Life was in a cinema, you could go and see it, whereas Everyday Except Christmas wasn’t. I thought all those people were very clever and I liked that whole movement

So what were your jobs on if….?

I used to make those collages that are on the walls. David Wood said Lindsay used to make me rehearse with them or something ghastly. I was just around.

There are pictures of you somewhere doing all kinds of things…

Oh really? Of being useful?

Or pretending to be useful!

Pretending to be useful, yes. (Laughs)

So you were sat cutting the pictures out?

Yes I remember doing those collages. And when he shoots the picture of the Queen or Audrey Hepburn. I remember doing all that.

So you do you remember thinking that it was going to be a powerful film?

Oh yeah – and that it was going to be a very popular film too. I never had a moment’s doubt. There’s a famous photo of a girl putting a flower down a rifle, which was of that moment. You just knew it was absolutely about what was going on at that instant. I never had a moment’s doubt about it.

Some of it was actually filmed at Lindsay’s old school wasn’t it?

We filmed a lot of it at Cheltenham yes, and in North London. But a large part was done at Cheltenham.

Is it true that he wrote a fake screenplay to give to the headmaster?

Yes I think he did, but if you want my honest opinion I think the headmaster was cleverer than that and knew that it would be very interesting. So I never thought Lindsay had fooled the headmaster, I always thought the headmaster had been clever.

What was it like to watch Lindsay in control of a film like if….?

Well he was very straight forward. One of the problems is that he did not know the language of film. When you work on a film you work with technicians who work for 50 weeks of the year, so they know a hell of a lot more than you do. And because he had long gaps between filmmaking, it didn’t come naturally to him in a way. I saw if… quite recently and I think the everyday bits of it are quite awkward. On the other hand the surrealist bits are absolutely brilliant. But he wasn’t familiar with the language. And always the crew know far more than you. They just know an enormous amount. Lindsay never fully understood Miroslav (Ondricek, cinematographer of if….) and his use of lenses. He was always quite bewildered by what he was shooting. The thing with Lindsay was he was very much in favour of everybody else, i.e. me, doing any job that was going. They want you to make a cheap thriller, go and make it… everybody except himself!

Do you agree with him? Do you think that’s a good bit of advice?

I think it is very good advice. I remember Jack Clayton saying, Don’t be like us, don’t wait five years to make another film… But I think that if…. is a terrific piece of thinking. I was always less sure about O Lucky Man. I don’t think I have seen Britannia Hospital, but O Lucky Man I was always rather dodgy about. I think it kind of peters out. That was what separated the men from the boys.

O Lucky Man is not as punchy is it?

No. And if… was very thought-through and told a good story and everything. There is a wonderful shot of a tall boy looking through a telescope looking at the girl leaning out of a window. And she’s waving, you know. Absolutely fantastic.

Was all that kind of stuff all Lindsay’s call?

Yes that would have been Lindsay. It is a wonderful shot. The surrealist stuff is terrific, much better than the clunky everyday stuff. He just had a very good mind, Lindsay. I think what he was, really, was a critic, and if…. was a piece of criticism on a very high level… on the country and everything.

Is it daft to ask you what you learned from Lindsay as a director for yourself?

I don’t have a clue. I can never answer that question. Lindsay would say, Have you thought about this? He would make you think it all through. A lot of it was that I learned how to cast films. That came out of Miriam Brickman, a good friend of Lindsay’s who was a casting director. They made you think it all through.

And trust your gut instinct?

Absolutely. If you haven’t got instinct don’t even start. Yes.

So then you began directing TV and film yourself, and you hired Lindsay to direct the TV play The Old Crowd, with you producing. That’s something we don’t get to read much about. What kind of experience was that?

The whole of LWT couldn’t believe this man was coming to work with them. They couldn’t believe what the implications were. We finished working at three in the morning. God knows how much it cost in the end. Lindsay became enormously entertaining. I will get shot for saying this but it’s possible he was more entertaining than the work he was doing. He was very sharp and funny. So the crew just couldn’t believe that such a wonderful man had appeared in their midst. He was very dazzling. You see he was a military man, used to being in charge. He was very outrageous. Good for him. He would tell you what he thought. He wouldn’t hold his tongue.

Did you stay friends after if…. and beyond?

Yes… the truth is I saw him on and off all through where our lives intersected. I had lunch with him about three weeks before he died. By then I had got to know Alexander McKendrick and he said, Oh I see you described him as a great man. He said, He should have backed us. I think that was something to with the Royal Court in the fifties. So this was in the nineties, forty years later, Lindsay was still feeling the same bitter edge.

The end portrait of Lindsay is often quite a sad one I think. He couldn’t get much work in the film world…

You mean Lindsay?

Yes.

Well, I mean, I can’t believe I get to keep on working. Yes. People would hire him knowing he was difficult, then he was difficult and they’d get cross. He would always present himself as being able to do anything, a western or a novel adaption, as if he could do something straight forward. But in the end he was directing plays in the West End. Maybe he could have done those films but they didn’t give him the chance. Maybe he would have destroyed the opportunity in some way.
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Lindsay used to say filmmakers are either poets or professionals, and he though John Ford was the only one who was both. Did he sometimes make it seem like he could be both too, like John Schlesinger or something?

God he was vicious about John Schlesinger.

I know, that’s why I mentioned him!

(Laughs) Watch it! Yes, but actually, distinguishing between poets and professionals… I am not sure about that. It’s quite a trite observation for me, that.

Do you have personal favourite memories of if….?

Funnily enough things I remember most were things like Robert Kennedy being shot, hearing it on the radio on the way to work. You knew it was a film about what was going on. I mean, I have hit the zeitgeist now and then. My Beautiful Launderette hit the zeitgeist. But if…., it was very clear, to me at least, that this was absolutely relevant.

It seems Lindsay was a big name back in the 60s and 70s, whereas now…

Yes but that’s a separate problem. He has a reputation among people my age. But I would imagine that younger people wouldn’t have the first idea who he is. Maybe Lindsay just had a moment where everything worked. Lindsay did a few plays, all by David Storey and they were all magical. And I think if… was made around the same time.

Do you have nice memories of the latter period?

Yes I used to go and have lunch with him. We used to go to a restaurant together, but I would have lunch with him. By then videos had come in so his room was stacked with them. He was a very intelligent man, a brilliant man. I don’t know anybody like him now. He was also a provocateur.

Comparing your career with Lindsay though, you’ve had a brilliant career, and been given so many chances to keep on making films…

But I wasn’t difficult.

I was going to say, is it just the difficultness?

Yes maybe. And maybe I have different taste; my taste is more vulgar perhaps. But if you think of if…., for that brief moment he had it, he was able to juggle it all brilliantly. I remember Lindsay saying to me, quite late in life, For a moment I thought I could do it. I understood that. If it’s working it should flow easily. Almost invisible actually, in a way Ford could have understood. You make films for people’s pleasure, and any artistic importance is incidental. It’s about giving pleasure to the audience. So for me there has been times where I have felt it’s good fun and what I am doing is the right thing. And then you go round the corner and it’s not… So what I am really saying is that at the end of the sixties, everything Lindsay had been working for made sense. Everything came together at that point. Then it won the Palme Dor. Good for him. But you have to be lucky and on if…. he was lucky. I mean, you find Malcolm McDowell and you’re lucky. But yes, it all came together. The audience were ready for him and he gave them what they wanted.

You don’t think he has a legacy?

No, now he has no legacy. But I’m glad I knew him. In the end, it’s the human things that matter.

I like that he wasn’t a snob and seemed to be so kind.

Oh yes he was very kind. His flat was always full of people whose lives were wrecked. Jill Bennett and Rachel Roberts… He was like a refuge for them. But to me it always seemed like he was celibate. He had a single bed, a room like a student. Like a sort of monk really. 57 Greencroft Gardens… He did live modestly, and that was how it was after all…

 

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16 of Lindsay Anderson’s 26 films

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Trunk Conveyor (1952)
‘This pioneering debut film from director Lindsay Anderson is a lyrical – and enlightening – account of the production of conveyor belts as well as their usage, in coal mines and elsewhere. This subject matter proves unexpectedly cinematic – the photography is atmospheric, and the music nimbly complements the action onscreen, while the commentary from Anderson himself is sometimes brisk but always instructive.’ — bfi

Watch the film here if you’re in the UK

 

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Thursday’s Children (1954)
Thursday’s Children is an Oscar-winning documentary by Lindsay Anderson and Guy Brenton about the Royal School for the Deaf in Margate, Kent. It explores how the children were taught to communicate using lip-reading and the ‘oral’ method, rather than sign language. Thursday’s Children anticipated the later Free Cinema movement, and Anderson’s if…., which won the Palme D’Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.’ — lshtm


the entirety

 

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Foot and Mouth (1955)
‘By the time he made ‘This Sporting Life’ in 1963, Lindsay Anderson had already had a 15-year documentary career, his output including the Oscar-winning ‘Thursday’s Children’ (1954) and the Free Cinema classic ‘Every Day Except Christmas’ (1957). Sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the lesser-known ‘Foot and Mouth’ is a briskly efficient, devastatingly effective cautionary tale of how foot and mouth disease, the farmer’s worst nightmare, can easily break out thanks to a simple act of carelessness.’ — bfi


Excerpt

 

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£20 a Ton (1956)
‘This early documentary by director Lindsay Anderson hints at his later work with its use of comedy and its glances at class division. Producer Leon Clore was a great supporter of film talent encouraging many young filmmakers en route to feature film success. The film’s sponsors meanwhile were a newly formed outfit advising energy users on ways to improve efficiency as the end of rationing, and a growing global market, provoked fuel crises.’ — bfi

Watch the film here if you’re in the UK

 

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O Dreamland (1956)
‘Lindsay Anderson’s 12–minute tour of Margate’s Dreamland funfair is immediately notable for its deliberately bleak and unattractive photography and a spare and impressionistic soundtrack. Despite the absence of a commentary, the film distinctly conveys Anderson’s obvious disdain for the modest, if not tawdry, attractions on offer.’ — bfi

the entirety

 

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This Sporting Life (1963)
‘One of the finest British films ever made, this benchmark of “kitchen-sink realism” follows the self-defeating professional and romantic pursuits of a miner turned rugby player eking out an existence in drab Yorkshire. With an astonishing, raging performance by a young Richard Harris, an equally blistering turn by fellow Oscar nominee Rachel Roberts as the widow with whom he lodges, and electrifying direction by Lindsay Anderson, in his feature-film debut following years of documentary work, This Sporting Life remains a dramatic powerhouse.’ — The Criterion Collection


the entirety

 

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The White Bus (1967)
‘While a sharp little movie in its own right, this 45-minute short is most historically significant as a precursor to the classic “If…,” which Lindsay Anderson directed the following year. The two films share some traits: the occasional jumps from black-and-white to color, Arthur Lowe portraying an older authority figure and, most importantly, a bleak cynicism about the status quo. The big difference is that “If…”‘s Mick Travis turns to violent revolt in the end, while the unnamed female lead of “The White Bus” is just a passive observer. Indeed, the actress (Patricia Healey) only has two spoken lines, despite being almost continuously on camera. “The White Bus” is more a series of vignettes than a story.’ — Eric B


Excerpt

 

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The Singing Lesson (1967)
‘I wish I had a bit more information about how THE SINGING LESSON came about. Specifically, how did the 44-year-old British director Lindsay Anderson, who would shortly go on to make classics like IF… and O LUCKY MAN! come to co-direct a documentary short with a then-17-year-old Piotr Szulkin? This was five years before Szulkin struck out on his own and made his first solo short, so I can only assume it was some sort of student initiative. The opening title card explains that Anderson was invited by a documentary studio in Warsaw to come and direct a short film, and he found his subject at the Warsaw Dramatic Academy where a group of third year music students presented their songs to their professor and fellow students. I assume Szulkin was one of those students (but if he was a third year university student, why was he 17?) and picked up the co-director credit somehow, but I’d still like to know more.’ — Zack Mosley


the entirety

 

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if…. (1968)
‘Lindsay Anderson’s if…. is a daringly anarchic vision of British society, set in a boarding school in late-sixties England. Before Kubrick made his mischief iconic in A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell made a hell of an impression as the insouciant Mick Travis, who, along with his school chums, trumps authority at every turn, finally emerging as a violent savior in the vicious games of one-upmanship played by both students and masters. Mixing color and black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy and reality, if…. remains one of cinema’s most unforgettable rebel yells.’ — The Criterion Collection


Trailer

the entirety

 

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O Lucky Man! (1973)
‘Instigated by McDowell, O Lucky Man! became Anderson’s biggest, most complex, and near greatest film. While McDowell went to work on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, writer David Sherwin was tasked with writing the picaresque tale of everyman Mick Travis (who was first seen as a rebellious schoolboy in If… and later a cynical photojournalist in Britannia Hospital in 1983). Travis is a naive but ambitious young man who wants to have the riches of success but has no understanding of the rules by which the game of life is supposed to be played. Travis (McDowell) starts off as a coffee salesman who falls foul of sinister covert operations, escapes a mad scientist who transplants a human head onto a pig’s body (hints of what was to come in Britannia Hospital), ends up imprisoned for having “failed” or rather got caught and eventually finds enlightenment at an audition for a movie called O Lucky Man! where the director (played by Anderson) tells him to smile, to which Travis replies “What’s there to smile at? I can’t smile without a reason.” Whereupon, Anderson slaps Travis across the face with a copy of the film’s script. In close-up, Travis is seen to smile.’ — Dangerous Minds


Trailer


Excerpt


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Britannia Hospital (1982)
‘The final film in Lindsay Anderson’s Mick Travis ‘everyman’ trilogy – along with If… and Oh Lucky ManBritannia Hospital is a savage comedy that plays out like a lost Carry On scripted by Bertolt Brecht with a sizeable chip on both its body-horror shoulders.

‘Released in 1982, just as the Falklands War was kicking off and Margaret Thatcher was hitting her polarising stride, dividing the country into the have’s (here’s your money-pit) and the have-nots (here’s your cess-pit) it is antirealist, operatic, horrific, over-the-top and it spares nobody.

‘With over 70 speaking parts and no discernible lead, the plot is slight – chaos incarnate. We are dropped into a hospital on its last legs, awaiting the futile arrival of the Queen Mother. Behind cold closed doors, sinister medical experiments are not only practised but also bizarrely rehearsed. Through open public doors, NHS staff members are striking and quibbling about everything and nothing, sometimes even breaking out into sentimental song.

‘An auteur in the manner of Luis Buñuel and his idol John Ford, he made visionary odyssey’s that dealt in both transcendence and grit. Britannia Hospital ends on a SCI-FI blast every bit as spiritual as the star child in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Anderson had a heart. It just beat differently than most others.’ — Austin Collings


Trailer

 

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Free Cinema (1985)
‘In spring 1985, Lindsay Anderson appeared in a television programme on British cinema. This was part of a series of three under the heading British Cinema: Personal View, produced by Thames Television. Anderson’s contribution, Free Cinema 1956–? An Essay on Film by Lindsay Anderson, was written and directed by him. He was also the star of the programme, providing a lecture on the history of British cinema with himself at the very core, although, at the time of the production, Anderson’s career was in decline and he was not involved in any film projects.’ — Erik Hedling


the entirety

 

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Wham! in China: Foreign Skies (1986)
‘Wham! by contrast were the quintessential good-time band with a repertoire of bubble-gum pop hits and famous for appearing on Top of the Pops with shuttlecocks down their shorts.

‘Perhaps it is little surprise that the two were to experience an explosive falling out when Lindsay Anderson, by then in his 60s, was asked to direct a 1985 film about the pop duo, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, as they became the first Western group to perform in Communist China.

‘It was a pivotal moment not just in popular music but in cultural relations between the emerging Asian giant and the West. But the Scottish film-maker, whose camera lingered lovingly over the meetings between the band’s management and members of the Chinese bureaucracy, was summarily thrown off the project. A new version was made – this time focusing more on the band – and rather less on the politics.

‘Anderson reserved his most stinging criticism for the “inflated ego” of George Michael, the group’s lead singer, who he accuses of wrecking his “beautiful” film.

‘To make matters worse, the official documentary Wham! In China: Foreign Skies was eventually shown to more than 70,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in 1986, setting a record for the largest audience at a film premiere.

‘Such was the animosity between the two camps that when it emerged a copy of the 90-minute Anderson original entitled If You Were There – once thought to have been destroyed – was being screened at Stirling, Michael and his record label Sony ordered it to be stopped.’ — The Independent


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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The Whales of August (1987)
‘This poignant 1987 film was the culmination of an era. It was the last film of Lillian Gish, Ann Sothern, and director Lindsay Anderson. It was the last great performance of Bette Davis and Vincent Price, who previously worked together nearly 50 years earlier. The film is totally real. It is set in the early 1950s, on a small Maine island where two elderly sisters have gone to vacation the summer away as they have since they were girls. There is s brief prologue in sepia where Mary Steenburgen plays Gish, Margaret Ladd (Falcon Crest) plays Davis, and Tisha Sterling plays her real life mother Ann Sothern who plays Tisha, a friend to the two old sisters. Vincent Price plays a a former Russian aristocrat who has his eye on Lillian. Davis is blind and relys on her sister who she feels Price is trying to take away from her. There are great performances in this film superbly written by David Berry. It’s all senior citizens. You won’t find anyone younger than 70 in this film. It’s about their life and how they live it at such an advanced age. Gish was 93 when she made this and had been acting since she was a child in the gay 1890s.’ — C-Money


Trailer

 

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Glory! Glory! (1989)
‘Director Lindsay Anderson’s compelling, winning 1989 two-part TV movie comedy drama Glory! Glory! runs a riveting 206 minutes without a let-up and is outstanding. It is a witty, funny, razor-edged satirical spoof of American TV evangelism, directed with great gusto by British director Anderson (in his first and only American TV foray) and written with unstoppable brio by Stan Daniels. Ellen Greene stars as Ruth, a magnetic rock singer who comes to the rescue of a cash-register ministry when honest but dull young Reverend Bobby Joe (Richard Thomas) empties the churches his magnetic radio preacher father Reverend Dan Stuckey (Barry Morse) used to fill before he became a media superstar. Anderson brings out the best in all his actors, and there is a superb, scene-stealing turn from James Whitmore as the church’s canny huckster eminence grise Lester Babbitt.’ — Derek Winnert


the entirety

 

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Is That All There Is? (1992)
‘When an artist dies, it is always tempting to ferret through his or her final work for some veiled hint of mortality, some quiet note of leave-taking or Last Testament. In the case of Lindsay Anderson, that search does not take long and the valedictory note is loud and clear. The concluding sequence of what we must now call his last film, Is That All There Is?, has the form of a funeral gathering on an open boat, with Anderson raising a glass in memory of two actress friends, Jill Bennett and Rachel Roberts, while their ashes are scattered to the waters of the Thames and Alan Price sings that lilting cabaret song about terminal disillusion from which the film takes its name.

‘The highly personal tone of Anderson’s piece was originally his response to an executive producer’s brief – it was commissioned by John Archer of BBC Scotland for a forthcoming series, The Director’s Place, in which film-makers from around the world offer visual essays about a locale that has some private significance for them. Anderson chose to shoot a diary of daily life in his North London flat and in his local shops, whose keepers are pressed into half-delighted, half-embarrassed service as supporting players.

‘Since his death has suddenly gazumped the BBC’s schedules, however, Is That All There Is? now looks less like an evocation of household gods and the daily grind than Anderson’s deliberate attempt to leave us with the kind of obituary he wanted for himself – mischievous, cantankerous, amusing and unexpectedly lyrical.’ — The Independent


the entirety

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hi D!!! I did! Like the poem. It’s really something. Fist bump on our Delvoye mind meld. Yeah, me too, if I were asked, re: the McQueen quandary. Ha ha, the world your love proposes would get so annoying in such an exciting way. Love making everyone in the extended Kardashian family including anyone they date into a spinning top that revolves at such a high speed that they become invisible apart from a faint whirring sound for the rest of eternity, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Damned NHS and their damned restrictions! Okay, that does sound like good news on balance, for sure, right? Home! Writing and dj-ing! The return of your radio show, I hope! Just hang in there a little longer, buddy. Love, me. ** Misanthrope, Good? You mean you actually listened to them? I understand where your mom is coming from, and god love her heart, but sometimes the heart is the worst judge. I trust that you’ll do whatever is best to do. Oh, Mother’s Day. I think the French Mother’s Day is on another day. I wonder why. Enjoy the fete. ** David Ehrenstein, Thank you. Peter Beard has been a name on the fingertips of a strangely large number of social media outputters lately. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi, Corey! Just yesterday I was thinking, I wonder what in the world is going on with Corey/ And, like magic, you materialise. I’m all right. We are very not post-pandemic here. We are soon to be in the early stages of hopefully late stage pandemic. Programmer sounds like an okay thing to be. It sounds powerful. Excellent about the reading. Really, that’s a novel way to hold readings there? That’s odd and interesting. Anyway, that sounds really great, man. Sex can jeopardize anything, and the opposite. Crap shoot. Trust your … uh, internal something or other. I’m so sorry about your dad, but I’m glad he’s being taken care of well. I don’t know, that’s hard. Wishes for whatever the best could be. Thanks, I’ll check out your add. Everyone, Corey Heiferman attaches a caboose to the gig yesterday in the form of ‘Nemalim’ (‘Ants’) by RASSISANIS, a talented Tel Aviv/Jeruslaem duo of young DJs.’ Hit it. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Rivet is a good start in my opinion. i hope your doctor has a productive and non-invasive idea of how to get you out of that brain fog. I’m so sorry. The past year+ has wreaked so much havoc. ** Armando, Hi, Armando! Nice to see you, man! MBV is insanely good, for damned sure. I’m fine, just working on this and that project and waiting for France to reopen to a degree in 11 days. Mostly waiting for that, I guess. But I’m fine. And you? ** Jack Skelley, Jazzck! That Thunderclap Newman album was so good. And still is. The first Speedy Keen solo album is really good too. Hm, Hammer fuckers. Well, if/when Tosh interviews me/us re: the show I’m going to talk about Twisted for at least 80% of the time then. That’ll show them. Wow, the talk is something to be heard already? Cool. Thank you! And I’ll Zoom you within hours, or, since I guess you won’t see this until the morning your time, within minutes! ** Okay. This weekend involves an info outlay and film fest relative to the wonderful British filmmaker Lindsay Anderson, Make haste in its direction, thank you. See you on Monday.

9 Comments

  1. I can’t thank you enough for this Lindsay Anderson Day. “If…” changed my life In one magic moment it made gay desire not only plpable but heroic Sadly he had a lot of personal problems on that score as hekept falling for straight men (eg. Richard Harris)

    I met him at the cast and crew screening of “My Own Private Idaho” on the Disney lot. Gavin Lambert (who had been a close friend since their school days) brought him. I wa staritn to tell him how much his work meant to me when Keanu came swanning by and Lindsay was in hot pursuit.

    “The Singing Lesson” is one of my favorite musicals. It’s rightup ther with “Good News, ” “Love Me Tonight” and “Marat/Sad”

  2. Dennis, Funny that I’ve seen a lot of these titles mentioned but did not know Lindsay Anderson’s name. Wait, that’s pretty typical of me and your posts.

    I’d be lying if I said I listened to all of them, but I did sneak through and listen to a few that sounded interesting, which is what I usually do on these days.

    Yeah, a friend a long time ago advised me to think with my head and not my heart. It’s helped me. But my mom, all heart when it comes to her kids and grandkids.

    I pick up the cake today and we’re going out to eat tonight. That should be okay. And then I am going to try and find David a cheap smartphone—they’re out there!—and let him do some sort of prepaid thing where he has to buy his own card every month and add it to his “plan.” No more iPhones or Galaxies or monthly plans for him. He’s destroyed/lost at least four iPhones. And then I’m done.

    So I have this idea. Guy I used to work with and who loved my blog serial, The Autobiography of Mark Dennison, contacted me out of the blue and was like, “Why haven’t you gotten this published yet?” Hahaha. I’m like, “You’ve read it, right?”

    Anyway, I always wanted to put it together as an actual novel and have it…illustrated. Finding a press to publish it is another story. But I’m kinda into it. Even if it (and it probably will) means that I’ll have to self-publish it. I’ve got a friend in Manchester who’s an illustrator/artist, and I think he’d be up for it. I mean, why fucking not?

    In the meantime, I’ll get back on that other novel I didn’t finish. Need to do that.

  3. Hi!!

    I’m just dropping in for some weekend love-sharing today. You know, I might find your love’s version of the Kardashian family a lot more intriguing than the real thing, haha. Thank you! Love getting asked to proofread and edit a research essay on the isotope analysis of pig teeth, which he quietly refuses, Od.

  4. I guess I did my equivalent of yesterday’s Gig Day with this Spotify playlist, although it seems downright mainstream in comparison: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2WaXkiZeDpVmTqPnCp9MLi?si=9edf03f84a0345f1.

    I feel a bit better than I did when I posted here yesterday, but I am still extremely depressed. I had a Zoom chat session today with a friend in New Zealand whom I haven’t talked to in about a decade, and laying out the past year made me realize just how grim living through it America was and how much of what I’m going through is a response to collective trauma. In NZ, he hasn’t yet been able to get vaccinated, nor has anyone else, but they’ve got the virus under control to the point where no one wears masks even indoors except on public transportation.

    I’ve been exploring Wax Trax recently, and that might be why Rivet appealed to me. I found most of their catalogue corny and cheesy at the time, but seeing a 2017 documentary about the history of the label helped put it in context. Front 242 and the first KMFDM album were actually quite good, although KMFDM very quickly overdid the metal lead guitar shredding.

  5. Dennis,

    How are you? I’m ok, in a bit of a depression, far worse than usual. Spiritually and emotionally drained, dreaming of when this ends. Wanted to let you know Scott Bradfield, who wrote the mind-blowing The History of Luminous Motion, has just dropped a new short story collection, The Millennial’s Guide to Death. I feel like any missive dropped by Scott is worth a look, you and Scott are the weirdest California writers of all time… and Yes, that’s a compliment, haha.

    I hope all is well with you, my friend.

    Love,
    James

  6. Lovely Lindsay Anderson day, Dennis. I’ve only seen the “hits” If and O Lucky Man, years ago. Might revisit soon.

    Enjoying the Factrix post this weekend. The opening video X-Communication was such a surprise. I’m sure you’re aware of the kind of vapid gay feel-good fare that Marc Huestis was known for later, and here is this lovely abstract mystery piece.

    Another Bandcamp Friday. I umm forgot to remind you. There’s mumblings that this is the last one. Ah well.

    Bill

  7. Dennis! This is my favorite day ever. I love Lindsay Anderson with a passion. If…. is my absolute, all-time favorite film. I first saw it at 17 and it had a life changing effect on me. And when I watch it today it still brings me to tears. The b/w coffee shop scene. My god. It’s perfection.

    There’s wonderful book, probably out of print now, call Mostly About Lindsay Anderson, by Gavin Lambert. It’s a part biography part memoir. Lambert was a lifelong friend of LA’s.

    Anyway, I’m gushing. So excited to watch some of these shorts I’ve never seen.

    B

  8. Hello Dennis!

    Been a little while since I’ve made my presence known… I’ve had a hideous amount of work from uni and other commitments etc, but I don’t want to bore you (or myself) with the details, anyway most of it is now in slow retreat and I’m looking forward to having more time for more meaningful stuff!

    How are things in your immediate vicinity? I hope you’re weathering France’s (continuing?) confinement as well as could be reasonably expected… This weekend just gone I went to a pub for the first time since september, with a few friends that I hadn’t seen for like 18 months, and it was the first time I felt kinda hopeful for the good stuff coming back, even though we did almost freeze our extremities off because of the cold

    I spent today doing chores and then gave ‘If….’ a watch in the afternoon! I enjoyed it, not least because the, ahem, milieu it explores is one that I was regrettably somewhat familiar with when I was at school, and spend quite a bit of time thinking about… I kinda wish it had gone… I dunno… further or deeper or more extreme or whatever… Maybe if the church shootup had occurred earlier in the plot? But then I guess it is the first part of a trilogy? I will definitely try and continue it if I get the time though.

    Anyway, will tie it up there! Speak soon, xT

  9. “Mostly About Lindsay Anerson” is the best book ever written about Nicholas Ray

    BTW, I wrote the program notes for the Criterion DVD of “If…”

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