Nicolas Roeg

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Big Ben
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#51 Post by Big Ben » Thu Jan 18, 2018 4:01 pm

Cobpyth wrote:I am desperately looking for a copy of Roeg's Castaway. Does anyone know if there has ever been a proper DVD release or if it has ever streamed (or is still streaming) on a certain site? Is there a reason why it's so hard to find, compared to Roeg's other films?

Has anyone here ever seen it in a respectable quality? How was it?

There's a Region 2 release of Castaway from Germany here on Amazon if you really need to see it and have the tech to watch it.

Side note his film Track 29 is available on Filmstruck if you're down for that. I've seen neither Castaway or Track 29 but the general consensus I've seen from most folks I've had any discussion with is that Eureka is the last real balls to the wall Roeg film and even that's a debatable film in my opinion (Parts of it are great and some parts are special to say the least.).

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MichaelB
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#52 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jan 18, 2018 4:06 pm

I preferred Track 29 to Castaway, but was still massively disappointed. But I will put in a good word for Two Deaths and Puffball - I suspect it helped that I watched the latter in the company of my wife, a midwife massively into paganism, but it is at least recognisably Roegian.

And The Witches is wonderful, of course.

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zedz
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#53 Post by zedz » Thu Jan 18, 2018 4:23 pm

I found Castaway perplexingly staid, given its potential to revisit the glories of Walkabout. There was some slightly interesting camerawork towards the end, as I recall, but that seemed less a case of aesthetic inspiration than a desperate workaround for the inability to make Oliver Reed look emaciated.

Track 29 is just a massive misfire, in my opinion, though kind of an interesting one in the way it brazenly relocates Dennis Potter's original play to an American setting, with all its baked-in Englishness (toy trains, sexual mores) defiantly unchanged. Plenty of cognitive dissonance, but not of the kind you used to get through Roeg's characteristic shooting and editing play. The real auteurs of the film are Potter and whoever demanded the geographic upheaval.

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Mr. Deltoid
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#54 Post by Mr. Deltoid » Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:10 pm

A huge Roeg fan since my late teens, but I never knew that it was Nic that had directed the iconic 80's AIDS commercial Don't Die Of Ignorance. That's from the same period as Castaway and Track 29 and indisputably reached more people than either of them.
I actually like Track 29, despite it's faults. It's a strange, dislocated film (mostly to do with - as Zedz points out - the perversion of Potter's source), but it has flashes (disruptions?) of the old style, like Christopher Lloyds rallying sermon intercut with Roegian images of sensuality and violence. As a completist, I'd certainly buy a nice Blu-Ray if one turned up. But then, I'd also do the same for Cold Heaven as well!

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colinr0380
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#55 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:17 am

The ending of Insignificance (major spoilers!) is the last 'balls to the wall' Roeg sequence as far as I'm concerned, but there are still moments of interest in everything that came later. Just tackle all of the earlier films first!

I would also make a case for Cold Heaven which also has a few old-style Roeg editing touches which the rest of the more straightforward films from this period lack - the match cut between the face of a dead person covered by a sheet to the silhouette of hills against a white sky for instance. And its the last Theresa Russell performance in a Roeg film (she's magnificent in the very difficult central role). Its a film that really needs to get unearthed again at some point. I even wouldn't object to a Criterion release (though of course Eureka should be more of a priority), even if it might be met with less passion than Insignificance!

The problem with Cold Heaven is that its religious guilt-ghost possession theme is eventually rather silly (and mostly involves Mark Harmon rolling around ashen faced in a hotel room), so it does not bear comparison to Don't Look Now. (Beyond any spiritual dimension it mostly just left me thinking that the Virgin Mary was a bit of a jerk!) But if you are a fan of Roeg's films and have seen all the others, I would certainly recommend it. Faster than I would recommend Castaway (though that film has a fantastic bait and switch! Come for the Amanda Donohoe nudity! Instead see all the Oliver Reed nudity!) or Track 29 (though that film is gloriously demented! And does feature a strange dentist themed sub-dom sex scene between Sandra Bernhard and Christopher Lloyd!)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Jun 15, 2019 3:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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John Cope
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#56 Post by John Cope » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:39 am

I absolutely love Track 29 and have seen it many times over the years. It's among my very favorite Roeg pics, though admittedly they're all pretty idiosyncratic picks (Full Body Massage, for instance, is probably my favorite Roeg of all even though his signature style is dialed way down for that one). What I love about Track 29 though is exactly and especially the collaboration between Roeg and Potter which I think brings forth some properly explosive results, enhancing and intensifying what is already intense about both their work. Russell and Oldman are utterly superb; it's career best work from the two of them as far as I'm concerned, struggling with very difficult characters in some very difficult terrain. As to Cold Heaven, I like it a lot too though it pales compared to the superb source novel by Brian Moore who also wrote the similarly themed Catholics, which was turned into an excellent film by Jack Gold.

I'd also recommend for those interested to read Paul Theroux's great novel Chicago Loop which was supposed to have been turned into a film by Roeg in the early 90's (he got as far as lining up James Spader and Russell for the leads and supposedly a script was finished by Theroux himself). The book is Theroux's take on Crime and Punishment and it's extraordinarily powerful as a terse and caustic American version. It's hard not to imagine what Roeg and company could have done with it and be deeply disappointed it never happened.

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colinr0380
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#57 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:41 am

The recent BBC Arena profile of Roeg has turned up

Incidentally that end credits song is E=MC² by Big Audio Dynamite, which is a tribute to Roeg's films.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#58 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Jan 23, 2019 5:24 pm

I don't usually bump these Filmmaker threads when I redo the first posts, but for those who might be interested, the 'Web Resources' section for Roeg has an unusually plentiful and varied array of valuable contemporaneous and retrospective articles, videos, and interviews spanning 40+ years of his career.

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ex-cowboy
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#59 Post by ex-cowboy » Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:41 am

Watched Insignificance for the first time the other day and absolutely loved it. I thought the use of the four main celebrities to examine ideas of personal and collective trauma was very good and the way the film subtly builds up to some really striking images and scenes was remarkable. Although there are a few of his later films I've yet to see, I would definitely place this in my top couple of Roeg films (Performance is pretty much my favourite film of all time). The final scenes were absolutely astonishing. Watching the image of
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the actress on flames and then her charred, irradiated corpse
was pretty Ballardian, or at least evocative of the kind of imagery Ballard utilised so well in that brief period around The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash to explore the relationship between the collective culture psyche and trauma, violence etc. that may be buried (consciously and unconsciously) under the surface of an individual and/or society. In some regards the Professor is the key to this film as both the traumas he revisits are by their very nature both personal and shared.

The other dynamic that struck me was the issue of identity in the Ballplayer/Actress relationship. The Ballplayer is haunted by the need to maintain his public persona as the driving force in his life, whereas the actress seems to want to lead a normal life, the pain of being trapped as this icon no one wants to understand being one of her many traumas. Similarly the only two characters with any kind of sympathetic relationship are the two (the Prof. and the Actress) who both seem to have quite complex relationships with their respective public personas, but who find a common ground in the relative safety of a quasi-private space (the ambiguity of a hotel room - not entirely public or private space) adding to the themes of identity and collective and private memory. For tall these reasons, I felt Insignificance was perhaps Roeg's most 'political' film, perhaps alongside some of the examinations of corporate America in

Code: Select all

Man Who Fell to Earth
. Having said that the complex relationship between different spheres of society, not to mention the obvious reference to 'Old England' in Performance (though it could be argued these were more Cammell than Roeg) does lend to the argument that I have made before that the political is often an area of Roeg's works that is perhaps under examined, when regarded next to other more overt themes.

Cycling back to the point about Ballard, it reminded me that at the time of the release of the film High Rise, I think I read somewhere that at one point Roeg's name was attached to direct (back in the late 70s or so). I'm not sure how true this is, or where I read or heard it. It may have been because of the relationship Jeremy Thomas and Roeg had at that time, but does anyone know any more about this?

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Roscoe
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#60 Post by Roscoe » Mon Mar 18, 2019 1:41 pm

ex-cowboy wrote:
Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:41 am
Cycling back to the point about Ballard, it reminded me that at the time of the release of the film High Rise, I think I read somewhere that at one point Roeg's name was attached to direct (back in the late 70s or so). I'm not sure how true this is, or where I read or heard it. It may have been because of the relationship Jeremy Thomas and Roeg had at that time, but does anyone know any more about this?
Wow -- I had no idea, but I distinctly remember thinking, after seeing as much as I could bear of the really wretched Wheatley film of HIGH-RISE, that it would have been so much more interesting if Roeg had gotten his hands on it. Another missed opportunity.

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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#61 Post by Robin Davies » Mon Mar 18, 2019 3:03 pm

From the Paul Mayersberg interview in FRAGILE GEOMETRY: THE FILMS, PHILOSOPHY AND MISADVENTURES OF NICOLAS ROEG by Joseph Lanza:

"You also did a screenplay for J. G. Ballard's novel High-Rise. That sounds like the ultimate Roeg-Mayersberg collaboration."

"I made it into a story about a man breaking into the building. He was a computer man. I placed it quite differently. In my version, the building existed in the middle of a desert in Arizona. It was like a totem. When he looked at it he saw two buildings, but when he arrived there, he found only one. It was just a sight. People would come along, look at it, then go away again. Inside it there was just decay, and the man came in to try and find out what was going on. I delved into character vignettes, overlapping lives and relationships."

"Like Chelsea Girls?"

"Something like that. It wasn't a project for Nic, though. Some producer came to me and asked me to write a script. He didn't like it. The rights reverted. Once again, it didn't fit the narrow genre standards."

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ex-cowboy
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#62 Post by ex-cowboy » Mon Mar 18, 2019 7:56 pm

Brilliant, thanks for that. Would have been wonderful to see Roeg handle High Rise, or any Ballard really. The highly experimental structure of AE would have been perfect territory and Roeg is one of the few directors to really capture the elliptical, dreamlike quality present in Ballard's 70s work.

Yes, Wheatley's version wasn't great, a missed opportunity only tempered by my relatively pleasant surprise that I didn't hate it, having not enjoyed anything of his I've seen so far and fearing the worst.

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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#63 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Mar 19, 2019 5:41 am

Great points on Insignificance ex-cowboy! I wonder if the film in its idealised flashbacks and ersatz hotel room present day also builds up to a rather bleak comment on people having passed their peak, or point of prime usefulness to the culture, as their creations take on a life of their own. Each of them instigated their rise to fame but have little say in how their life's work gets used when other interests get involved. The Ballplayer dealing with his inevitable physical decline from his heyday; the Scientist traumatised by feelings of responsibility for enabling people to destroy each other on a larger and more devastating scale than previously possible; the Actress going through an internalised apocalypse of her own of being transformed into both a sex symbol and an Icon which comes to embody the desires of others. Whilst the Senator is currently operating at the peak of his powers and suggesting the dark future of someone with that worldview, but none of the feelings of empathy, holding the reins. With the only consolation being that this too shall pass, though not without doing damage in its wake.

In a way their personas have grown bigger than the actual person, and a lot of the film seems to be based on a kind of dawning awareness of that sense of being unable to fully be in control of your athleticism, your intellect, your beauty, your rhetoric as the wider world takes these aspects and furthers them off into mythical levels. The body ages and decays, beauty attracts those who wish to control and destroy that beauty, idealistic intellect gets wilfully misconstrued into enabling violent acts, rhetoric is used to oppress and brutally close down thought rather than widen horizons.

Even the characters are not immune from doing that to each other, as in the final projection of the Scientist onto the Actress, although that comes across almost as her gift and benediction to him, with the Actress taking on her ultimate role, burning brighter than she ever has, but of course getting used up much quicker too.

The ending could be seen as hopeful in some ways, because of getting wound back and showing the Actress bidding farewell after her performance is over, but it really feels like as if we are seeing each character at different stages. It is a 'pre-apocalyptic' film, on the edge of so many horrible events to come for many of the real figures that these characters are based on (and the looming threat of larger scale nuclear war), but for the Scientist it is mixed with a 'post-apocalypse' one as the nostalgia that he is troubled by in his flashbacks contain Nazism and the atom bomb. The Senator embodies future unavoidable political horror of the McCarthy trials, dragging people in and tainting them with their participation. The Ballplayer is tormented by his past and never again being able to reach those heights, the nostalgia ruining the present, and fame always reminding him of it. The Actress is the only character really living in the present, and facing the most blunt present brutality, but of course has a sad fate awaiting her, though one which will forever keep her frozen at her absolute peak of being, as she ascends from human to Icon. Which is perhaps the ultimate tragedy, as being an icon of her times she can never experience life as an actual human being, especially motherhood.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Mar 23, 2019 9:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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ex-cowboy
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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#64 Post by ex-cowboy » Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:46 pm

Thanks Colin. I think you raise some excellent points here (and in your previous observations on this title in other threads). The issue of the ersatz and the simulacram is definitely one of the major themes in this film – both in the textual interplay between the performances of icons/public figures and the cultural roles these real figures play and in the diegetic questions on this topic embodied most explicitly in the repeated fracturing and layering of personal and public identities of the Actress, but also the Ballplayer – his now lost superiority forever encapsulated in series of trading cards of the man (symbol) he once was. Of course, as I believe you have mentioned previously, the scene between the Actress and the Senator revolving around whether she is the real actress or someone just modelling themselves on her for monetary gain is key to these readings.

The link between the careers of the Ballplayer and the Actress are also mirrored in the way that for the former it is his age-related obsolescence now haunts him, whilst the Actress’s denial of sexual agency and desire for genuine sexual intimacy sits in relief to her exploitation of her sexual prowess in order to get where she is (shown in both the scenes in the dorm room and at the ad agency/agent’s office). This sexual element to the film is both important and, to some degree, played more subtly than is normal for Roeg. The lack of nudity – save for the Hockney calendar – sets this apart from his work of this period, but does not diminish the importance of sexuality and corporeality.

Roeg’s interest in the body is usually an integral part of his works – whether it’s the druggy, androgynous sex of Performance, nudity allowing the inverse of power relations in Bad Timing or the hypnotic, frenzied religious sexuality of Eureka, not least the very open, deeply loving and affectionate sex of Don’t Look Now, sex and the body is almost always interlinked with many other themes in Roeg’s work. It is telling here that the only nudity occurs in public on a wall, whereas the scene of intimacy is interrupted just at the point of reveal and potential vulnerability. The (intentional) ambiguity here is whether the sex that never occurred would have been beneficial for the Actress or would have made things worse. The crux, really, with Roeg (and this sounds rather basic, but I will hopefully elaborate at some point) is that sex is never just sex. The Actress’s festishisation of the Professor’s intellect off-sets against societies’ desire for her body, the complete lack of understanding of anything else about her.

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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#65 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Mar 22, 2019 5:16 pm

I would agree and do really like the way that in Roeg's film sex (and nudity in general if we widen out to the relationship between the "Girl" and the "Black Boy" in Walkabout) never seems to be there just for its own sake, but always seems closely tied to what having sex, or being naked (literally baring all) with another person says about the relationship between them at a particular moment in time. The tragedy, or at least difficulty, being that even that kind of intimacy is often only skin deep and often the characters remain mentally separate from each other, forever locked within their own minds and troubled by their own motivations and thoughts about what the situation that they are currently experiencing means to them on the individual level. That is really the main way that a stylistic outlier film like Castaway still ties in thematically with the rest of his filmography.

The more exposed you are to another person, ironically the more that it affirms your existence as a separate being with your own thoughts and desires, and differing abilities to cope with events that the external world throws at you. (I think more optimistic films would perhaps show how that essential individualism could help to make a couple stronger, by being there to support each other through the times when each have difficulties, though most of Roeg's films are more about exploring how individual desires often work to tragically separate people in a relationship from understanding each other, sometimes willfully, sometimes just when it is too late to go back to the way things were)

It is interesting that nudity in Insignificance with the Actress is often used more teasingly. The main image apart from the calendar (the equivalent of the nude scene in Monroe's last, unfinished film?) is the one of the Actress undoing the shoulder straps of her dress which zooms in on her cleavage. She deploys this with the Scientist early on which as you note gets cut short, and then the exact same zoom in shot occurs in disturbing fashion in the middle of the final sequence, suggesting that the image stayed in the Scientist's memory but instead of being about a sexual display the teasing imagery is instead overwhelmed by blood and horror of destruction as it mingles with his other concerns.
SpoilerShow
Which itself plays into the miscarriage that the Actress suffers earlier
I think that you are right about the importance of the scene between the Actress and the Senator. It is a way of the Senator bluntly using his power to put down the Actress by stating that she is a fake (which itself interestingly ties into Tony Curtis being in the role and Theresa Russell 'doing' Marilyn), whilst at the same time being about the Actress deciding to accept another role imposed onto her of just being an imposter rather than the actual person and coming to embody quite literally all those people that the Senator has used and has taken great pleasure in destroying. That scene then prepares for the way that she later, less consciously, ends up performing the same role for the Scientist, although only through his fantasies of her in that later situation (The Scientist only needs a intellectualised figure of the mind's eye to destroy and then be relieved has been returned to an unspoiled state when he comes out of his momentary musing; whilst the Senator seems to prefer to take out his frustrations on real, anonymous women standing in for other, unattainable figures).

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Re: Nicolas Roeg

#66 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jun 20, 2019 2:58 pm

The VHS Video Vault YouTube channel has unearthed the introduction to the UK television premiere of Eureka from 1989, which features an introduction by Nigel Andrews and interviews with Roeg, Jeremy Thomas and Paul Mayersberg.

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