Latest Lindsay Anderson news:
October 2008: This Sporting Life. Lindsay Andersons classic debut feature gets a digitally remastered release in the UK by the Network Label on 3rd November. Go to our This Sporting Life page to see the review of the new DVD release and of the film itself. You can order the digitally restored version of This Sporting Life from our Lindsay Anderson UK Store.
September 2008: Never Aplogise, or Never Apologize (USA title) is an exciting new film that has received a very limited cinematic run in the UK from 5th September.
The film is basically a recording of Malcolm McDowell 's one man theatre show about legendary British film director Lindsay Anderson. The show is cut with clips of Lindsay Anderson's films If... and O'Lucky Man! (both starring McDowell), and excerpts from Andersons pothumously published memoirs.
We here at alt-flix can heartily recommend the film for fellow fans of Anderson (and McDowell), film buffs and anyone who wants to have a damn good laugh at McDowell's hugely funny stories. Check out the trailer below.
If you can't make it to the cinema the DVD will be released in the UK on 27th October and can be pre-ordered direct from our alt-flix store, where you can also order the book Never Apologise: The Collected Writings of Lindsay Anderson .
You can also visit the Never Apologise website, which has lots more clips and information about the project.
Lindsay Anderson - A Biography part 1: Early years to 1960.
Lindsay Gordon Anderson was born in Bangalore, India on 17th April 1923 the son of a Scottish Army officer that was stationed there. His formative education was at Cheltenham College and then (following his service with the Army Intelligence Corps during WW2) Wadham College, Oxford - no doubt much direct inspiration was gained here for his films and his rebellious leanings. It was also at Oxford where he founded "Sequence" a critical film journal with his long time friend Gavin Lambert. The voice of Sequence decried the state of British film as too stuffy, too middle class, and lacking in any social / moral perspective (the same things he Anderson would aim to put right in his later career).
In 1948 Lindsay Anderson began his transition from film critic to film maker, when he commenced making short documentary films. 1948 saw him make a 33 minute documentary film titled Meet The Pioneers a film about an Engineering factory in Wakefield (a job he got because a fan of Sequence was married to the factory owner who then commissioned the film). This was followed in 1949 by Idlers That Work.
1952 saw Lindsay become a published author with his book Making A Film which looked at one of his favorite film directors Thorold Dickinson (a director with a professorial knowledge of cinematic technique) and Dickinson's direction of the film Secret People. 1952 also saw Anderson complete three further documentaries Wakefield Express about the production of a small weekly newspaper, Trunk Conveyor made for The National Coal Board and Three Installations another industrial film promoting the industrial expertise of an engineering company.
1953 was something of a breakthrough year for Lindsay Anderson. His first film of the year was O' Dreamland a documentary which on the surface was about Margate's famous amusement park, but underneath was more of an indictment on the state of modern culture and it's need to embrace all that shines, and the hollowness and sadness that underpins it. This was followed later in the year by Thursday's Children a film about the children from the Royal School for the Deaf in Margate. The film was a critical success despite finding no distributor. It was nominated for a BAFTA and also won The Academy Award in 1955 for Best Documentary Short. Thursday's Children was also marked a step up in the world because he was able to film in 35mm and would also be joined by Walter Lassally as Director Of Photography (more of him later) and Richard Burton as the narrator. NB Thursdays Child has been included as an extra on the recent DVD issues of if....
A series of further documentaries followed over the next two years. A Hundred Thousand Children, Henry, Green And Pleasant Land and The Children Upstairs were all five minute shorts made for the National Society for the Prevent of Cruelty to Children. Foot And Mouth was a Public Information film about the disease produced for the Ministry of Agriculture. Energy First and £20 A Ton were produced for the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service.
Lindsay's vehement opposition to the subjects being made by British movies, and the problems of getting films like his distributed and shown led to a new cinematic movement coined by Anderson 'Free Cinema'. It was spearheaded by Anderson and his like minded cinematic comrades the directors Lorenza Mazzetti, Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson plus DP Walter Lassally. Their Manifesto stated "No film can be too personal. The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments. Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim. An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude." The Free Cinema event took place at the National Film Theatre in February 1956 an included Anderson's O' Dreamland, Momma, Dont Allow by Richardson and Reisz, and Together by Mazzetti. The original programme for the event can be viewed at the Free Cinema section on the BFI site. The movement continued for a few years with further events taking place before the end of the fifties but by that time much of the talent had moved onto making full length movies. A Free Cinema DVD has recently been released (which is available to buy from our stores) which contains amongst others early Lindsay Anderson works The Wakefield Express, O' Dreamland and Everyday Except Christmas.
The same year saw him take up his first commission to direct for the theatre with his production of Kathleen Sully's The Waiting of Lester Abbs at The Royal Court Theatre. This was the first in a long career in the theatre (and in particular with The Royal Court) that would see him direct at least one theatre production a year for most of the rest of his life and would see him specialising in directing a few selected playwrights including Shakespeare, Checkhov plus contemporary sympathetic writers in particular David Storey. The theatre work kept him busy up until the early sixties when he would commence work on his next film project.
Part 2 1960 - 1973.
In the meantime his contemporary Free Cinema colleagues were already making a name for themselves within the British cinema industry. Karel Reisz had found success with his film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. John Osbourne had made a particular name for himself with his highly successful run of films between the late 50's and early 60's including Look Back In Anger, The Entertainer, A Taste of Honey, The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner and Tom Jones.
In 1961 Anderson came across the novel This Sporting Life by David Storey. Spurred on, no doubt, by the success of his Free Cinema colleagues Reisz and Richardson, Anderson set out trying to get a feature film made of the story. He desperately wanted Richard Harris for the lead role of the tough and troubled Ruby League hopeful Frank Machin. Harris was tied up in another project so Anderson waited and got his man. The filming (set around Wakefield - the location of his first documentaries) commenced in 1962 with his Free Cinema colleague Karel Reisz producing. Playing alongside Harris was the beautifully understated Rachel Roberts as the repressed, widowed landlady that Machin is in love with. Upon its release in 1963 Harris and Roberts received Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Cannes nominations for their stunning performances. Roberts and fellow cast member Arthur Lowe would join Anderson's repertory of actors that he would return to throughout his career.
Some further attempts to make another feature with Harris never got off the ground and it wasn't until 1966 that his next project a 45 minute film of Shelagh Delaney's short story The White Bus (starring Arthur Lowe and Anthony Hopkins) was completed, to be part of a trio of films with Richardson and Reisz but ultimately remained unreleased. (Do look out for special screenings of the movie - they have taken place a few times in recent years).This was followed in 1967 by The Singing Lesson with Anderson going to Warsaw, Poland to make a 20 min documentary about a dance school.
Next would come Anderson's most feted film - the now legendary if.... (1968) Adapted from a story by John Howlett and David Sherwin. if... follows the escapades of Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) and brutal indignities perpetrated on him as a pupil at a private school (filmed at Anderson's own school - Cheltenham College). The story is a stinging indictment of the unnecessary brutality, and outright hypocrisy of the system (both the private school system and society in general), and it was particularly resonant as Mick Travis rebels against the system in violent fashion (very timely for the student riots taking place at the time). if..... was again critically well received - critics particularly lauding the invention in the film where it cuts from Black and White to colour and back again (which Anderson later explained was due to lack of money to buy any more colour film stock). Lindsay Anderson won the Golden Palm at Cannes for his direction of the film.
With Anderson still finding his reputation for lack of compromise hindering his chances of getting his film projects commissioned he returned to the theatre. It was one of his successful theatre production that would lead him to his next filmed project in 1972. A performance of the play Home was filmed for BBC Televisions Play for Today series. Again written by his friend David Storey, is the tale of two aging residents (John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson) of a home for elderly, mentally diminished patients. Luckily Home has survived and has been issued on DVD - it is well worth seeing.
The music for Home (Anderson's previous project) had been provided by Alan Price who was to be the subject of a next project - a film about a touring band. The film never got commissioned but elements of it can be found in Anderson's next movie the ambitious, sprawling surrealistic romp O Lucky Man! (1973) Based on an idea by McDowell about a coffee salesman, and written by David Sherwin O Lucky Man! continues the story on from if... and finds Mick Travis making his way in the world as a coffee salesman. O Lucky Man! sees Anderson pulling out all the stops. Not only does the film last a sprawling 3 hours it includes his repertory cast in multiple roles. Its a strangely subtle off kilter film, with much less bite than if..., but more witty and more fun. Gladly O Lucky Man! has recently been reissued on DVD with lots of lovely extras.
Both Lindsay Anderson and malcolm McDowell were not yet finished with the Mick Travis state of the nation addresses, and Britannia Hospital would fill in the need for a 1980's instalment of the loose trilogy. But before that Anderson had a few more projects to see through.
Part 3: 1974 to 1994
The following year saw another movie version of a David Storey play. In Celebration starred Alan Bates, James Bolam and Brian Cox as three grown sons arguing at a family gathering for their parents' wedding anniversary. (Again this is available to buy on DVD). Another TV play this time for LWT was his next project in 1979. The Old Crowd was part of season of Alan Bennet plays. The plot surrounds a middle-class couple, who moved into a large old town house in London and plan a large party to celebrate moving in, but everything goes pear shaped. 1980 saw Anderson's version of Look Back In Anger filmed for the big screen (filmed in only three days!) starring Malcolm McDowell.
1982 saw Anderson, Sherwin and McDowell reuniting to finish the trilogy started with if..., and O Lucky Man! with Britannia Hospital. Mick Travis this time is a reporter who is about to shoot a documentary on Britannia Hospital, a sinister, failing palace with all kinds of nightmares happening - including a royal visit. With the political climate as it was at the time, the film received a decidedly luke warm response (which it certainly did not deserve) and would mark the last time the Anderson repertory company would come together.
Next to come was perhaps the strangest turn in Lindsay Anderson's cinematic career. In 1985 he was commissioned to make a film about Wham's Tour to China. A mismatch of styles (the trash childish pop of Wham against the genius visual poet of the silver screen) that was certain to end in disaster. Which it did with Anderson's film telling the story about the slow but distinct changes happening in China to the backdrop of Wham's tour. Unfortunately the film was pulled away from Anderson and the footage recut to show lots of Wham songs! (surely the ultimate artless swines). Anderson kept his own cut of the story of the film (Wish You Were There) before Whams' record label obtained an injunction against it.
1987 saw Lindsay Anderson's first Hollywood movie and his last cinematic hurrah. The Whales Of August featured a cast of Hollywood legends (Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Vincent Price) and tells the story of two elderly widowed sisters living in a seaside home where the have summered for 50 years. Its a tale of changes, of passing time and of time remaining. Given the subject matter it was perhaps a surprise to take on such a conventional movie, however given Anderson's love of certain American directors perhaps it was less surprising that he chose to make a hollywood film. There is definitely a quality brought to it by Anderson (a theatrical quality - in the best way) but its not one for the Anderson purists.
1988 saw and ambitious, if rushed, 3hr+ TV movie for Canadian TV which found Anderson is his society reflecting best. Glory! Glory! was a film about TV evangelists and the connection between religion, politics and money, but above all hypocrisy. Glory! Glory! was a fine example of the razor sharp director still railing against all the old foes.
His final piece of work as a director was Is That All There Is (1993) a 50 min autobiographical (mock) documentary about himself that he made for BBC television. Through its humor it says as much about Anderson as This Sporting Life or if... does. (Happily you can find this documentary in ten minute chunks on YouTube - watch them and enjoy).
Lindsay Anderson died in Périgueux, France, on 30 August, 1994. A genius and poet of modern cinema quite unlike any other. A film maker who at his very best was difficult to rival and whose films are as fascinating as they are diverse and wonderful.
May 2008 - Hard on the heels of the USA DVD release comes the UK DVD release of the long awaited O'Lucky Man! After its inital video release and being long unavavilable (with VHS copies changing hands for upwards of £50), the two disc version was finally released in the UK on 19th May 2008. Its content is exactly the same as US version, with all the lovely extra features.