Never Apologize

Never Apologize


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

I am almost ashamed to have never seen a Lindsay Anderson production. I've read a few of his film essays (one of which convinced me to see Tokyo Story), but nothing else. It is a surprise and delight therefore, to find a stage tribute, by one of his best friends and one who considers him his mentor, A Clockwork Orange's Malcolm McDowell. The film is a record of a performance he first premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2004. Whether this film is as good as an actual, honest-to-God documentary is not for me to say, but it certainly preserves one man's eulogy for another as a visual document. And equally important, it's a good evening's entertainment which, for an Anderson newbie like myself, provides a decent primer in his work.

It is a solo tour-de-force performance, and it is energetic, empathetic and well-expressed, even if it does often veer off into luvviedom. McDowell shares with Anderson an affinity for gossip, affection and scandal. He is an expert raconteur and entertaining mimic of their mutual friends, and it's easy enough to get a flavour of the man through the material. He was clearly complex, sardonic, difficult, playful and possessed of startling wit.

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McDowell mixes perspectives in his act, reading extracts from Lindsay Anderson's own writings, casting directors and collaborators diaries, with his own take on the events. Most prescient is a extract in which Anderson talks about being invited for a flight across New York City, during which he notes the delicacy of its social melting pot and, sweeping over the World Trade Centre, how it is "exposed to attack". The addition of a skilled human voice bringing life to these writings lends them more power.

The self-deprecating and entertaining show is a professionally acted and performed event with a roughly hewn yet potent dramatic arc, with McDowell assuming a conversational approach. He could almost be speaking one on one to us in the pub, talking eloquently about his friend and experiences. These include the casting process for his breakout role in If..., his crush on co-star Christine Noonan (the naked scene in If... is well-recalled), a story of Lindsay convincing him to play Hamlet, which turns out to be in front of Steven Spielberg and a loudly snoring theatre attendee, and the process of manhandling the difficult director to take on a further project, which turned out to be O Lucky Man.

This video document adds various visual props; illustrative photographs overlaid on the performance and film clips from This Sporting Life and If.... They are sparingly employed, never overshadowing the simplicity of McDowell's performing. As an interesting directorial aside, when McDowell tells a story which uses multiple speakers and one part of the conversation finishes, the camera switches sides to give the other proxy speaker a different perspective. It's a simple, yet slick device.

The whole affair reeks of fun self-indulgence, and several of McDowell's stories fall flat - he's most definitely an actor rather than a stand-up comedian - but it is a fun tribute to a man who may or may not have been according to his chosen fantasy epitaph, "Surrounded By Fucking Idiots".

Reviewed on: 29 Oct 2008
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Malcolm McDowell's one-man memoriam for his mentor, Lindsay Anderson.
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Director: Mike Kaplan

Writer: Malcolm McDowell, Mike Kaplan

Starring: Malcolm McDowell

Year: 2007

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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