Recommended Reading: By and About Lindsay Anderson

NEVER APOLOGISE: THE COLLECTED WRITINGS by Lindsay Anderson, edited by Paul Ryan, London: Plexus, 2004, 612 pp.

MOSTLY ABOUT LINDSAY ANDERSON by Gavin Lambert, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, 384 pp.

I’ve never considered myself a particular fan of Lindsay Anderson, either as a filmmaker or as a film critic, so what am I doing recommending these two books? I wound up reading the Lambert memoir, which I now regard as perhaps Lambert’s most affecting book, for what it had to say about Nicholas Ray, but what it has to say about Anderson turned out to be pretty moving and compelling as well. And then running across a copy of Anderson’s collected film criticism, quite by chance, in a New York Barnes & Noble outlet last month eventually encouraged me to order a copy from Amazon U.K., which turned up today. Judging from the sampling that I’ve done so far, I don’t expect to agree with very much in it, but this is beside the point: as a mammoth film chronicle covering several decades, it seems comparable in importance, simply as a historical artifact, to the more recent Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber, with plenty of flinty iconoclasm in its own right, as its title suggests.

I generally feel so appalled by the collective amnesia undermining the history of English film criticism — the long absence of any volume in print by Raymond Durgnat (apart from his last two books, on WR: Mysteries of the Organism and Psycho), and what now seems like the permanent refusal to collect any of the criticism of Tom Milne, not to mention any recognition of the importance of Sight and Sound under the editorship of Penelope Houston — that anything like Never Apologise comes across like a bolt from the blue. The fact that this came out five years ago and has barely registered a blip in Anglo-American film culture is profoundly depressing. Maybe it’s my own fault for not really noticing its existence until last month, but unless I’ve missed something, it doesn’t seem to have caused even a fraction of the stir it deserves anywhere. [10/13/09]

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