Samuel Beckett’s only movie

Mahanta-WhenSamuelBeckettTriedtoCapturethePoweroftheMovies-690Siddhartha Mahanta at The New Yorker:

In the summer of 1964, Samuel Beckett arrived in New York City for his first and only trip to the United States, to oversee production on what would be his first and only film. Titled “Film,” it was commissioned by the avant-garde publisher Barney Rosset as part of a triptych; the other two pieces were written by Harold Pinter and Eugène Ionesco (both of whom, like Beckett, were published by Rosset’s Grove Press), though Rosset was unable to bring those to fruition. Beckett, by the mid-nineteen-sixties, had cemented his global reputation with the successes of “Waiting for Godot” and “Endgame,” and he and Rosset marshalled a remarkable collection of talent for their movie: celebrated theater director Alan Schneider; cinematographer Boris Kaufman, who had worked on “12 Angry Men” and “On the Waterfront,” among other films; and, most notably, the silent-screen legend Buster Keaton.

The plot of “Film” is, not surprisingly, scarce. “O” (Keaton) a dilapidated figure who wears an oversized trench coat and a flattened white Stetson, is pursued by “E” (the camera, essentially—and, by proxy, you, the viewer). O scurries along Pearl Street, in the bombed-out area beneath the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge. He collides with an old couple who are dressed in quaint Victorian style, and whose perturbed stares slowly twist into horror. When E then confronts them, they shrink in the “agony of perceivedness,” according to the script.

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