Saturday, November 24, 2018

R.I.P., Nicolas Roeg

I'm sorry to report the passing of one of the greats, Nicolas Roeg, at age 90.  Roeg's films, from DON'T LOOK NOW (one of the greatest melancholy horror films, hell, one of the greatest films of all time) to THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (featuring Bowie at his most enigmatic) to BAD TIMING (an atom bomb to the guts) to WALKABOUT to PERFORMANCE seemed simultaneously to define and to surpass the counterculture cinema world of the 1970s and beyond, in all of its jagged temporalities and wild, hallucinogenic complexities. Later works like THE WITCHES, INSIGNIFICANCE, his episode of THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES, and TRACK 29, reveal an aging filmmaker who, even apart from his ideal time and place and cultural zeitgeist was capable of crating memorable, artistic, and sometimes mind-blowing work. Even lesser projects like EUREKA and Cannon Films' CAST AWAY and FULL BODY MASSAGE experiment with form in ways most filmmakers would never dare.

He was an auteur whose bold, fracturous visual and editorial choices left quite a mark on me as a young man, both as a filmmaker and a burgeoning film critic. (One of my first bylines, in a student newspaper, was an absurdist rhapsody to two October re-releases of Roeg's work entitled "October? More like Roegtober!") Like other personal favorites like Ken Russell, Federico Fellini, and Richard Rush, his work was fully without inhibition, the rarest of qualities among artists, and even rarer still to be paired with actual talent.

We must also not forget his work as a cinematographer and camera operator, where he made notable contributions to films like Corman's THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, Truffaut's FAHRENHEIT 451, Schlesinger's FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, Clive Donner's THE GUEST, Zinneman's THE SUNDOWNERS, Richard Lester's PETULIA, and Lean's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. In some cases, he seemed, in doing so, to abscond from the premises with authorship of the film itself (I'd single out THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, for sure, and perhaps PETULIA as well).

In the end, he had one hell of a run, and I'm more than grateful for the work he left behind. R.I.P.


gweeps said...

Eureka was an amazingly well-cast, weird movie. I also really enjoyed The Witches as a child.

I need to see some of the others you mentioned. Maybe Bad Timing first?

Sean Gill said...


BAD TIMING is a very intense emotional/temporal experience, and I highly recommend it. Another possibility, if you haven't seen it already, is DON'T LOOK NOW, which is a masterpiece of melancholy horror. When you do see some more Roegs, lemme know what you thought!