Rethinking Lindsay Anderson

Lindsay Anderson is widely remembered as a director of features, but his formative years were spent as a documentary maker. As part of Boom Britain, Charles Drazin was joined on stage by Walter Lassally, Anderson's erstwhile cinematographer, Erik Hedling, a film scholar and author of 'Lindsay Anderson, Maverick Filmmaker', and Lois Smith, a lifelong friend who prompted his first steps in filmmaking. They attempt to put into context his initial experiments in non-fiction and look for early signs of the themes and ideas that became central to his later work. The discussion followed screenings of Idlers That Work (1949) (New Print), Henry (1955) (New Print) and Foot and Mouth (1955).

Lassally, who shot twelve features with Anderson, notes that the way these three films privilege people over process offers the greatest indication of the empathy and humanity of his more celebrated work to come. In the same films, Hedling sees the inception of a tendency to put the camera right in the middle of the action, achieving a gory tone in Foot and Mouth and signalling Anderson's drive for, 'trying to get the worst out of everything.' His very earliest work also acts as a study of development through trial and error. Lassally draws attention to glaring mistakes that were made because of Anderson's limited understanding of the physical procedures of filmmaking. It was an awareness of those same limitations and a keenness to learn that Lassally credits as the key to Anderson's ultimate success and the authority he soon carried. The discussion takes in Free Cinema, with any claims to its status as a meaningful movement roundly undermined, and Lassally and Hedling both give their theories on how the Free Cinema directors conceived of and executed their route into features.


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