Underground filmmaking in the 60s was never divorced or protected from the ongoing life that ran through it and around it. A movie's conception might have been pure and well defined but its execution was always subject to unexpected and inexplicable changes in a situation or in someone's behaviour. That's what this book is about.
It’s a raunchy story, a biographical account of a successful English New York fashion photographer in the 60s who burns down his career for the insane love of Candice, a model. When she’s done with him he crawls back to London where, serendipitously, he meets and inspires a disillusioned Producer of Commercials to return to his crafts of camera/editor to make a unique, unscripted film with him.
Beyond all expectations the film, they name it The Arousing, is a success. Despite or perhaps on account of the Board of Censors failing to allow it a certificate, it sells in Canada and Sweden; in New York it leads to many commissions.
They are underground filmmakers and, through no fault of their own, subject to all the vagaries that weave through and around the life. Michael Lang commissions them to make a film of his Woodstock event expecting an audience of 20,000. When it grows to 450,000 Warner Brothers take over. Alan Douglas commissioned them to make a film of Dr Tim Leary running for Governor of California. Tim got busted on the first day’s shoot. Commissioned to cut a collage film out of forty-two Laurel and Hardy movies they deliver a brilliant sixty minutes but the Producer wants ninety. A film commissioned by a marijuana dealer slips away from them into the hands of a clueless bunch of egotistical actors who snort most of the budget. Commissioned to direct a movie about the fastest gun in the world, the producer favours a Warhol cameraman rather than Malcolm's partner. The cameraman/editor turns out to be a junky who’s habit infects the whole production and saps the budget. Gauche marijuana deals are made to replenish it. The spliced neg falls apart on the printing machine.
His old partner’s interest in film gradually loses out to cocaine, first as a user then as a dealer then as an importer, he and his wife destined to OD. All is frustration. Broke and depressed he falls back into the warm embrace of a network of friends.
While still a photographer, he had written and sold a movie outline which, when it hit the screen as Vanishing Point, funded more writing. He had an already approved outline for a sexual fantasy. Having difficulty writing the script he meets a graduate of the National Film School and they work on it together evoking between them a sexual affair of an interesting nature.
Another of his ideas, The Confessions of an High Official, is being backed by a London Producer who sends them researching around the world. She falls pregnant in Kyoto and their first child is born in Hereford; fantasy gives way to reality and the importance of work and career recede. Their second child is born as fate would have it in an ashram in Hollywood. He was the midwife.
Apart from reflecting the free-form drug inspired 60s and 70s it’s a moving tale of birth, life and death. A racy, some say addictive read.
- Memoirs Of An Underground Filmmaker
Memoirs Of An Underground FilmmakerHot
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Malcolm Hart Updated August 22, 2022
Memoirs Of An Underground Filmmaker
July 25, 2015
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