The most essential elements of culture are those understood in the dawn of man (Kubrick). They are the source of foolery in a later age and the end of nonsense. Powell is the foundation of the Roeg theme, it runs throughout his work anyway.

The children of men, even ruddy Englishmen stark raving bonkers, are known to the world as ancient inhabitants, the comedy of their raising lasts a two-hour stretch (the “b.f.” or “butt factor”, Ken Russell calls it on industry authority). A lot of business transpires in that space of time, a lot of nature (Herzog) gets expressed, several facts of life, the Australian continent, the passing of the tribe of man, and various other amusements.

Variety’s pathetic review is one of its low points.

A real pinnacle of the filmmaker’s art. Properly speaking, there is an identification to be made with the Fall of Man and the Redemption of Christ in the back of beyond.


Don’t Look Now

Restoring an old church in Venice. The daughter has died, she wreaks a terrible vengeance.

Diaghilev saw disaster attend his revival of the classical tradition in Sleeping Beauty, but he never boarded a ship without life preservers aplenty.

Roeg is one of the great film directors, with a greater understanding of film technique than most of his colleagues even aspire to, therefore it’s wonderful that Vincent Canby should have missed it so completely.

The key theme is stated at the beginning, a sorrow of rain and a tear-cleansed stained-glass window.


the Man who fell to Earth

An alien from a drought-ridden planet lands on Earth to save his family. And there you have the whole story, how he builds a commercial empire to return to his planet.

And this is balked, amid many references to Menzies’ Things to Come, Nugent’s The Great Gatsby, Welles’ Citizen Kane and so on. A magnificent film, with many echoes and ironic settings of phrase, cinematically speaking.


Bad Timing

The formal element that struck the critics as most obtrusive is, alas for them, essential. The film is a running commentary on itself, very much like the famous German short story about an operation to remove a letter opener from a girl’s heart, how it got there and what it all means is the drama of the piece.



Roeg’s great redemption of the son-in-law is a monumental discovery, a work of genius, a piece that passed the understanding of all critics.

The trial sequence is properly operatic (a precedent is Wyler’s The Letter), that gives the key of the whole work.

The main strands sing out over the rest like a full orchestra and soloists, bravura is the main note.



The mystique of the bombshell, sired by a professor, loved by a ballplayer.

The professor is under investigation by a senator (the key casting here is Tony Curtis, from Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot for accuracy, but mainly from Blake Edwards’ Operation Petticoat).

The formula worked out is quite accurate, and correctly it is only finished when the film is.

Reviewers had not any idea, but found it pleasing just the same.



The continuous utterance of a broadly-developed and casually-refined joke, rather than formal deployment. The work is the same from first to last, it gradually reveals itself in its own punchline.

A year on a tropical island with a dilettante, a would-be artist, an æsthete.

Roeg is in Pommer’s position (Vessel of Wrath), he has the cinematographic resources to follow the affair.

Powell’s Age of Consent is an acknowledged precedent (Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific is tacitly present).

And it’s all true, by published accounts.

Variety thought this was “no Roeg masterpiece”, Time Out (where Gerald Kingsland’s advert first appeared) took it as real in another sense, “portrait of a marriage”.


Un ballo in maschera

King Zog walks out on the opera in Vienna and is not assassinated.

Hitchcock, of course, but also Reed’s balloonmonger, and quintessentially Lubitsch (To Be or Not to Be).


Track 29

A nice bit of American dementia in the unassuming kitsch palaces of North Carolina’s coast ends quite happily.

A lot of Roeg material is reworked and analyzed, starting with the Man who fell to Earth for the redhaired stranger from England, Bad Timing and Castaway for numerous details of the Henry marriage.

Kitsch is the model railroader’s paradise, his titanic passions come with the rubber-glove spankings he gets at the Summit Home for the Elderly where he works as a doctor (the railroad set includes a miniature of the house they live in and the water tower next to it).

The neglected wife surrounded by dolls has a fantasy of the infant son taken into adoption when she was fifteen, and there are other considerations as well (that was the Summer of Love, “giving each other daffodils and crabs, talking about peace and all that shit”, she’d gone to ride the bumper cars at the local carnival).

This is Dennis Potter’s Schmoedipus, set at a curdling point of the American dream and very funny.

Critics have maligned the performances, which are not deficient in any way, on the contrary. Furthermore, Roeg gets the unmistakable sound of a suburban spinet.


The Witches

The Jim Henson production of Roald Dahl on po-faced toeless purple-eyed baldheaded child-hating witches in disguise as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Criticism was favorable, though reviewers complained it was very frightening for small children.


Cold Heaven

This is pretty straightforward. The Book of Jonah serves as delicately (and yet ineluctably) as one might ask for a modern demonstration of the effective workings of the Holy Spirit. Yet all its complex aspects merit consideration as a whole. What you have is commonplace adultery resolved, ultimately, by a priest’s metaphor. Naturally, this gives you Jerusalem as an harlot redeemed by Christ’s death, supplemented by the notion that Our Savior is nailed to his cross by our sins. In the midst of this, you might say, the Blessed Virgin Mary appears in a vision to the straying wife, entreating her to speak to a priest in order to have a sanctuary rebuilt on the Carmel shore. The wife is dilatory on this point, and her husband’s injury is magnified. Now, the point clung to by Roeg is the very naturalness and realism that have boggled some minds. Hence, the final miracle is the same sort of apparition commonly reported here or there as drawing crowds. It’s a green cross that suddenly appears on the cliffs at Carmel, and seals the wife’s conversion, but leads inevitably to the rather simple conclusion (on a formal basis) some have complained of.

Roeg is actually quite capable of achieving all this, and does so. It’s a simple virtuosity of the rare sort that faces boredom as the equivalent of mere ease, and it always finds originality in self-evident things.

A good example is the scene between Theresa Russell as the wife and Richard Bradford as the Carmel monsignor she consults, an Irish type not uncommon in those parts. Roeg adopts the crudest back and forth of camera positions, and (like Sydney Pollack in The Electric Horseman) picks up every nuance of his studied incredulity and her frazzled rationality.

It’s easy to grasp Roeg’s view of the wife in her easy æstheticism of rooms where “women come and go”, but she goes to the airport and he films these interiors keyed to the daylight on the airplanes outside, leaving her and the inside in photographic near-darkness, and that’s an effect of mystery. Countless tiny details keep two feet on the ground while the religious implications and motifs are realized. All of the performances are inspired, it really plays “like water over pebbles,” as Alistair Cooke described City Lights.

Another example of the realism and its resonances is the novelistic accident that befalls the husband (Mark Harmon) and the visceral response it produces in him (this is later reflected in James Russo as the lover when he is rejected).


Heart of Darkness

A quietly amusing, deliberate little film of Captain Marlow’s trip upriver to see Harry Kurtz. It starts in London before it starts in London, all a flashback of the journey, his meeting with Kurtz, and then with his widow in England.

It’s a trading firm, beads for ivory. At the farthest point it has broken down into a storehouse full of tusks gotten by Kurtz and the tribesmen who do his bidding, evidently with rifles. But there is no further communication with the company, so Marlow has been hired, a “freshwater seaman”.

The film’s atmosphere suggests Eastwood’s White Hunter Black Heart (and Huston’s The Roots of Heaven). The pacing and tempo avoid other comparisons, except to Coppola’s arrangement for full orchestra.

“Poor Harry,” says the widow, exactly like Anna in The Third Man, however.


Hotel Paradies

The Douanier’s sleeping gypsy, Hardy on the Titanic, Adam and Eve and the Gideon Bible.

It ends like Huston’s A Walk with Love and Death.


Full Body Massage

The joke about the lady gallery director and the masseur.

It’s given dramatic exposition of a sort, which must be why Variety and Time Out didn’t recognize it.


Samson and Delilah

Not only DeMille is the consideration, but also Baldi. Roeg pays nothing to either except the Philistine’s love-death.

That is a remarkable feat, quite as heroic as the theme.

The essence of a very mighty Christological reading is to stretch the allegory as thin as possible without structural demarcations, the whole thing goes in one snap.

The arcane symbolism includes Lenny Bruce’s “Superjew” for Samson’s leap from the palm tree, and Stevens’ Shane for Naomi’s farewell.

The magnificent invention of the Philistine court gives the king (Michael Gambon) an imbecilic son (Ben Becker) and a very able general (Dennis Hopper) enamored of Delilah (Elizabeth Hurley), who betrays Samson (Eric Thal) for profit so as to avoid marriage to the idiot prince.



Just the very picture of an art school girl as architect.

Irish fertility rites, Yank boyfriends, Odin’s stony hole, “slo-mo”, mad hat, digital effects.

Critics generally couldn’t see what it was about, even with the kindred example of Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty before them at several removes.