Notfilm

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Notfilm
"At more than two hours long, it's a shame Beckett wasn't on hand to offer a bit of advice on the importance of distillation, although there is plenty here to enjoy."

This essay film by archivist and filmmaker Ross Lipman takes a rigorous approach to the 1965 version of Film, touching only briefly on the later BFI remake. At more than two hours long, it's a shame Beckett wasn't on hand to offer a bit of advice on the importance of distillation, although there is plenty here to enjoy.

Contributors including Beckett regular Billie Whitelaw, his biographer James Knowlson and actor and long-time friend of Buster Keaton, James Karen, recall their memories of working with Beckett and of the film itself. Lipman, perhaps unsurprisingly, puts the emphasis squarely on film, drawing parallels between the work and attitude of Keaton and that of Beckett. It's a shame no mention of the British music hall tradition is made, as this was surely an influence on the playwright, although perhaps it simply didn't sit well with Lipman's filmic argument.

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He proves a dedicated interviewer, probing his contributors' memories well and he is also a dab hand at working with archive, mixing in silent era clips from Keaton's films.

There is some digression, not least in Lipman's fascination with cinematographer Boris Kaufman's brother Dziga Vertov. While there is no doubt Vertov was a big influence on his sibling, it would be better to talk more about the aspects of Kaufman's trajectory clearly visible here - such as his use of light - than go up the garden path in speculation.

Elsewhere, however, he brings a good balance of addressing the film on an intellectual level, while retaining the personal testimony of those who worked with Beckett. The inclusion of segments of an audio recording of the writer at a production meeting is also pure gold for Beckett fans, as so little audio of him exists.

Exhaustive in terms of Film, Lipman also does a fine job of opening out the themes and ideas to consider Beckett the man as well as his work.

Reviewed on: 03 Jun 2017
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Notfilm packshot
Experimental essay - its author Samuel Beckett, its star Buster Keaton.

Festivals:

London 2015

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