ARTYFACTS: Day 23 - Roeg film maker

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Day 23 - Roeg film maker

Nicolas Roeg is a film maker with a unique style. His montage effects, freewheeling approach to narrative, cross-cutting and atmospheric film making have given him a CV that puts him among the very best of British film makers. This session made you want to rush back to see Don't Look Now, Walkabout, The Man Who fell to Earth and Bad Timing.

He's a gentle man, who, by his own admission, mumbles a lot. This, along with the poor sound, and no microphones for questions, made it a bit of a trial to listen to, but he's full of great insights into film making, so you end up ignoring all of this and soaking in the views of a master.

Film making
He doesn't storyboard and sees the script as a guidance. The script, for example, for Walkabout, was only 14 pages long. He loves to shoot lots and use the edit as an opportunity to create atmosphere. Some good examples were shown on the screen and through anecdotes. In The Man Who Fell to Earth, a scene with Bowie had a man belching, this was kept in as the first thing the alien heard on our planet. One of Roeg's talents seems to be his eye for these unscripted moments.

Modern movies
He sees the business now as more of a business than it's ever been, but still sees a sense of daring among young film makers. As the effect of the novel on film fades, he sees young film makers and young audiences rely less on tight narratives, and with the rise of the internet and other media, including reality TV ("people are being hypnotised by the strangeness of reality"), sees audiences cope with looser plots. Unlike the administrators, lawyers and business people in the industry, he sees a more sophisticated form of visual literacy. Interesting point about film being in the grip of the novel, which is, in his view, in itself a relatively recent thing. This event, is, rather strangely, a book event!

Flash Gordon
A questioner asked what had happened to the fateful Flash Gordon. Roeg spent three weeks in a hotel room reading the comics and uncovering some pretty saucy scenes which the cartoon guys had slipped in under the eyes of text-only newspaper editors. Full of lines such as "I'm coming Gordon". When it came to his interpretation the studio were having none of it.

The final question was, and there's always one, "Do you have a favourite film that you've made?" His answer - "no". And could someone oil the doors in The Duke of York's? They groan and squeak like hell.

4 stars


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