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Lindsay Anderson Retrospective at Lincoln Center

The Film Society of Lincoln Center's tribute to Lindsay Anderson was centered around Never Apologize, a video-recording of Malcolm McDowell's one-man show about the celebrated director. Although not exactly cinema, this video does frequently entertain and provides some insight into Anderson as an artist. McDowell's impersonations are often memorable as is his human appeal. McDowell's publlc appearances at several shows splendidly enlivened the retrospective.

All six of Anderson's theatrical features were screened. This Sporting Life — shown in a superb, presumably archival print — Anderson's first feature, seemed to this viewer to hold up as his strongest, distinguished by Denys Coop's fine black-and-white cinematography. The film's complex narrative structure, influenced possibly by Resnais, now seems under-appreciated; the film seems a more modernist and less purely naturalistic work than is usually described. The performance of Richard Harris remains spellbinding amidst that of several other excellent players.

If . . . . lost some of its impact by being screened in a less-than-pristine print. I have wondered whether the film might have been stronger if public school life were granted some validity, thus at least provoking a tension for the viewer in appreciating the conflict between the rebellious students and the establishment. As it is, what affection Anderson reportedly retained for his alma mater is visible principally in Miroslav Ondříček's lovely color photography; to this viewer, the monochrome sequences, although effective at creating an ambiguous, quasi-dreamlike relationship with the color scenes, would have been more intense if they had not been printed on color film.

O Lucky Man! would also have considerably benefitted from a newer print. One aspect which held up rather well for me was Alan Price's rock score both as music and as a structuring device. But the film does develop something akin to a worldview in its relationship to If . . . .; however, it is difficult to see how this notion of authorial vision can be extended to the films outside of the Mick Travis trilogy which seem to lack a unifying language.

The wear-and-tear on the print of In Celebration, from Kino, was somewhat less distracting. As a recording of a gripping stage-play, the film communicates something of the interest this must have possessed on the stage but I think Anderson fails to render the material truly cinematic and the abilities of the extraordinary cinematographer, Dick Busch are largely underused. The atmosphere of the house is well conveyed, however, and the actors are all outstanding with Alan Bates as scintillating as he's ever been.

Typically, there was no warning that the color in the print of Britannia Hospital had begun to fade and so I didn't stay to re-see it this time. However, the print of Whales of August had very intense color which brought out the natural splendor of the film's setting on the coast of Maine but, once again, the experience would have been more satisfying if the print had been more pristine — shots of the sky speckled by dirt on the celluloid undermines the effect of the photography. I was ultimately moved by the relationship of the two sisters played by Bette Davis and Lillian Gish and there were a few arresting moments such as cut to a low travelling shot of the feet of the two sisters as they walk out on their porch.

Anderson never became the major figure promised by his early short films. His admiration for John Ford was the occasion for the inclusion of two films by the great master. My Darling Clementine was shown in another damaged print (from Fox) but the tones of Joseph MacDonald's photography were well-preserved. One greatly laments the extensive cuts imposed by Darryl Zanuck whom Ford supposedly admired. The film features one of the few effective roles of  Victor Mature as Doc Holliday while Henry Fonda is magnificent as Wyatt Earp. One of the best war film's, They Were Expendable was shown in a gorgeous, pristine archival print from George Eastman House. Both films feature Ford's melancholy nostalgia, the sense of worlds constantly ebbing into a forlorn pastness as they unfold before our eyes. Ford's often overlooked sobriety can be appreciated when one considers that the Donna Reed character disappears, never to be heard from again in the course of the film, a memory almost as soon as she appears.

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