Remembering Nicolas Roeg, Cinematic Master

November 24, 2018 § Leave a comment

MV5BYWY4MTVhYzMtNzA5Yy00YWRjLTlmNGMtN2I1MzQwNTU3NzNhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_Nicolas Roeg, who died yesterday, was one of those rare directors whose style kept changing as his career progressed. Though none of his films looked like anyone else’s, they also didn’t look like his others. Perhaps for that reason Roeg seemed forever young, so much so that his age–90–came as shock to me.

Roeg was trained in the British studio system, and before becoming a director he was an esteemed cinematographer. (One of his credits is “Lawrence of Arabia,” on which he began as the second unit camera operator and ended as DP.) His first film as a director, “Walkabout” (1971), remains the gold standard for films set in the Australia, a feast of indelible images.  But Roeg was more than a visual artist: in film after film, he explored themes of alienation, loss and expatriation. Often his characters are strangers in foreign lands: the children in “Walkabout,” the space alien in “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” and the couples in “Don’t Look Now” and “Bad Timing” are all far from home and vulnerable, and some are physically lost. Instead of rescue, they often meet disaster.

Roeg took risks with his casting, raising eyebrows by casting singers in leading roles. Mick Jagger and David Bowie made their acting debuts because of him (in “Performance,” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” respectively), while Art Garfunkel gave his best performance in the underrated “Bad Timing.”  I recommend all his films, but my favorite remains “Don’t Look Now,” a high point not only for its director but its stars, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. In 2011, after visiting Venice for the first time, I wrote about it here:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/dont-look-now-du-mauriers-story-roegs-film-and-venice-then-and-now/

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