Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Roeg male

Accepting the Alexander Walker prize at the Evening Standard film awards for his contribution to film-making, director Nic Roeg joked that he hoped it was a 'half-lifetime' and there would be more to come. On the strength of his last feature, Puffball, that is difficult to envisage.

The film was muddled, if a little crazed (no bad thing in itself), and seemed to have no point to it, my current bête noir with all sorts of films. I hoped when I met him at his Notting Hill home that he might be able to explain what he was trying to achieve with the film; often you become a lot more well-disposed towards a film, TV programme, artwork or book when its creator explains what their aim had been (a danger when you review something by someone you've interviewed; not bias necessarily, but a more charitable mind towards their intentions). Instead he seemed preoccupied with the detail of how the film - adapted from a Fay Weldon book by her son Dan - came into being and then, following his lead, or so I thought, bemused by my questions about the different media (HD?) he'd used to create some of the film's effects (filmed in small spaces, the lense seems to pull in everything around it so you are pushed up against bellies and table edges).

The interview had been carefully organised to come before his lunch - on a hot summer's day it was a pleasure to stop in this cool, shaded house - but even after only a couple of questions Roeg seemed keen to finish. I ploughed on, but didn't get much on what had drawn him to the project (there were lots of hints that it did all mean something but maybe he was too tired to say), nor how he felt of a contemporary film with three fine women leads (including Kelly Reilly), still something of a rarity these days. In front of the room where we spoke was a giant nude portrait of his ex, Theresa Russell, made of cut-up photographs.

Afterwards, Roeg was keen to see the shortened transcript of our interview I was sending to Little White Lies - not something I normally indulge - and tinkered with one phrase as he worried the emphasis might be misleading. He made his name, of course, with some great films in the 1970s - Performance, Walkabout, Don't Look Now and The Man Who Fell To Earth - and continued on his reputation into the '80s, but by the time of Cold Heaven in 1991 it seemed he had little left to say (the previous year's excellent Dahl adapatation The Witches notwithstanding). Almost a British forerunner of David Lynch, perhaps the writers were no longer matching Roeg's fantasies, and he'd run out his own imagination; this award may provoke a revival of interest in his career. If the particularly medical shots of Puffball are anything to go by, he only seems to have retreated further inside himself, where the rest of us may no longer want to follow.


  1. I have to agree about 'Puffball', though I find it hard to be objective when a film stars Kelly Reilly.

    Ah, Kelly Reilly.

  2. I know what you mean about Kelly Reilly. Thank you for your kind comments, by the way - I really like your blog.