Nicolas Roeg 1928-2018
November 24, 2018 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Nicolas Roeg, the visionary film director, has died aged 90. Starting as a tea boy, he worked his way up until by the 1960s he was the cinematographer on films such as Fahrenheit 451, The Masque of the Red Death and Far From the Madding Crowd. Performance, which he co-directed with Donald Cammell, was released in 1970 (after a two-year struggle with the studios), his first solo film Walkabout the following year and over the next twenty years he made startling, shocking and hugely influential films such as Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing and Insignificance. His films were marked in particular by a disorienting editing style, cutting backwards and forwards in time.
posted by Grangousier (31 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by namagomi at 3:55 PM on November 24, 2018

He was an excellent cinematographer and a great loss to the art. I loved Walkabout!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:06 PM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:07 PM on November 24, 2018


We've lost a true auteur. Walkabout broke my teenage heart and was a big part of why I went into cultural anthropology.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:23 PM on November 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

posted by clavdivs at 4:30 PM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Brundlefly, the story in the linked essay is exactly how I felt about Nicolas Roeg, but I never found another family member or friend to share my lasting terror with like Shannon did.
posted by seasparrow at 4:32 PM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

posted by Halloween Jack at 4:48 PM on November 24, 2018

I tried for a long time to write something for the post about Roeg's style and didn't really get it at all. There's something effortless about the way he totally flaunts our normal ideas of continuity and time, without going completely into experimental territory - it's a part of the way the film explores theme and character and story, and in Roeg's hands is as solid and clear a technique as the close up or the flashback. The point about it is that it's not a flashback (or a flash forward): although the movie has a temporal core, it can often find itself in two times simultaneously (for example, the sex scene in Don't Look Now which intercuts between the sex and the getting dressed for dinner afterwards - it's not flitting backwards and forwards, it's the two moments intertwined). It's just that no one else seems to have done it (though there are numerous recent films that I think would have benefited enormously from some of his touch).

His films could be clinically horrific - parts of Eureka, for example, or (notoriously) Bad Timing, but I always felt there was something affectionate about the way he saw his characters (as opposed to someone like Kubrick).

I hope his less-well-known films get rediscovered along with the famous ones, he had a unique vision.

Alfreda Benge, Robert Wyatt's wife, worked on Don't Look Now, and Wyatt was along for the trip. To keep himself entertained during the shooting days, she bought him a cheap Italian organ with an insistent vibrato. He used it to write a number of songs which he recorded the following year while recuperating from the accident that has left him in a wheelchair ever since, and which formed possibly his greatest album Rock Bottom with the Italian organ as its trademark sound. I just find it nice that two works of creation that struck me so strongly came about at the same time, in the same place, but unbeknownst to each other.
posted by Grangousier at 5:18 PM on November 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

posted by pangolin party at 5:35 PM on November 24, 2018

posted by sammyo at 5:50 PM on November 24, 2018

Damn (not the first word I said when I saw this news). Roeg was completely unique.

posted by vers at 5:56 PM on November 24, 2018

posted by homunculus at 5:59 PM on November 24, 2018

posted by doctornemo at 6:00 PM on November 24, 2018

posted by droplet at 6:52 PM on November 24, 2018

I always got him mixed up with Nicholas Ray. I wonder if the Robert Wyatt story is how Jim O'Rourke came to name some of his albums after Roeg movies.

posted by rhizome at 7:04 PM on November 24, 2018

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

posted by hyperbolic at 7:06 PM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I saw Bad Timing around the time I decided to cut ties to a man I viewed as a friend and mentor. We were closer in age than most of the men who took me on as a project, and in Bad Timing I saw the toxicity of our relationship. Yes, the film is hugely problematic (I have a hard time seeing it as misogynist because the female characters as so three-dimensional and we’re not supposed to identify with the Art Garfunkel character), but it helped me pull my head from my ass and see what could become of me.

RIP, Nic.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:23 PM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Somebody I never met but in a way I know..
Didn't think that you could get so much from a picture show.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:50 PM on November 24, 2018

posted by dannyboybell at 7:51 PM on November 24, 2018

I loved his many early films with a passion :(
posted by growabrain at 8:06 PM on November 24, 2018

posted by Fuchsoid at 8:16 PM on November 24, 2018


Thank you, Mr Roeg.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:10 PM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't like the film business. I don't like the British film business. I don't like the American film business, I don't like the French, German … I don't like the film business. I like filming. I'm a filmmaker."
posted by adamvasco at 4:11 AM on November 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by valkane at 4:26 AM on November 25, 2018

posted by the sobsister at 4:42 AM on November 25, 2018

I have ambivalent memories of Track 29, a Roeg film that isn't mentioned very often. Perhaps rightly so, even though it features Gary Oldman, Theresa Russell of course, and a story by Dennis Potter. Not to mention a quite perverse use of Lennon's Mother. Ebert said this about it: Like many of the strange, convoluted works of Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look Now, Bad Timing, Eureka, Insignificance), it is bad-tempered, kinky and misogynistic. But not every film is required to massage us with pleasure. Some are allowed to be abrasive and frustrating, to make us think. I think that applies to so many of the movies he made, what made them fascinating and problematic in equal measure.

Also, I always recommend a double bill of Don't Look Now and The Comfort of Strangers to anyone visiting Venice for the first time.
posted by fregoli at 6:04 AM on November 25, 2018

posted by Splunge at 10:36 AM on November 25, 2018

posted by hap_hazard at 10:42 AM on November 25, 2018

posted by detachd at 9:15 AM on November 27, 2018

Watching Performance as my last Filmstruck movie.

Losing access to films of directors like Roeg is just one of the things that's pissing me off these day but it's one of the bigger ones.
posted by octothorpe at 6:00 PM on November 28, 2018

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