MALCOLM McDOWELL

a personal visit with
LINDSAY ANDERSON
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SIGHT AND SOUND
David Robinson

Malcolm McDowell as actor-writer and Mike Kaplan as director pull off  a very surprising coup with Never Apologize  A Personal Visit with Lindsay Anderson, succeeding in turning a plain record of a one-man stage show, done before a live audience, into a film that grips consistently  for every one of its 111 minutes. The credit must be shared with their subject, Lindsay Anderson, the troublesome giant of British cinema – an irascible, generous, tormented, tormenting, passionate poet.

Anderson launched McDowell’s career when he gave him the leading role in If…. (1968). McDowell’s reciprocal admiration and affection – spiced with amused appreciation of Anderson’s quirks – enrich the portrait he paints here. McDowell is an easy and compelling raconteur, with tales to tell of his fraught audition for If.…, and of the hazards of the film’s celebrated nude scene with a phlegmatic Christine Noonan; of Anderson high on hashish brownies; of Rachel Roberts displaying her cropped (for a film) pubic hair at the Colombe d’Or until distracted by sudden lust for the passing Catherine Deneuve; even a touching story of Princess Diana, who irritated Lindsay when she sat beside him at the Cannes screening of The Whales of August.

McDowell has a shrewd eye for character and a great talent for impersonation – especially when he is capturing Anderson at his most supercilious and inquisitorial, staring over his senatorial nose with eyes as mercilessly challenging as his questions.

Kaplan cleverly sharpens up dialogue by cutting between angles of McDowell’s close-up face. McDowell also reads from David Sherwin’s memoirs of working with Anderson and from Anderson’s own letters and diaries. These are the show-stoppers, each one spontaneously applauded by the theatre audience.

Whether writing a postcard, a letter or a diary entry, Anderson was incapable of not making literature. The title of the film acknowledges his firm principle: “Never apologise – it is a sign of weakness”. A lengthy letter, written to an estranged Alan Bates at the behest of friends who felt Lindsay owed him an apology, elegantly evades the necessity of doing any such thing. It is the sheer wickedness of the thing that captures the theatre audience.

Filming This Sporting Life, Anderson agonises over working with Richard Harris, talented but terrible, and with whom he had fallen secretly but desperately in love. There is a superb essay on working with the angelic Lillian Gish and the diabolic Bette Davis on The Whales of August; and a moving account of a last meeting with his dying hero, John Ford. McDowell reads them beautifully, with authentic Anderson intonation; and he closes with a memory of the loss of Anderson himself that Anderson (his most merciless critic, naturally) would have approved for the absence of easy sentiment or ‘acting’.


****Evening Standard
Derek Malcolm
November 1, 2007

Anyone who knew Lindsay Anderson will have some stories to tell about this extraordinary British film-maker and most difficult of men who inspired intense loyalty and sometimes repaid it with less than grateful behaviour. Few knew him better than Malcolm McDowell, an actor whom Anderson made a star in If..., and who in 2004 created a oneman stage show in which he detailed his memories of his tetchy but generous mentor.

Mike Kaplan, whose friendship with McDowell began on Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange and who produced The Whales of August, Anderson's last film, records McDowell's show with modest skill and mixes his anecdotes with well-chosen archive footage.

The result is fascinating, revealing McDowell to be a much finer actor than some of his recent films might suggest and Anderson to be not only a great film and theatre director but a character it is impossible, if you knew him, to forget.

The apology implied in the title was to Alan Bates, a nice man and a fine actor whom Anderson had been rude about and was told had been deeply hurt by his curmudgeonly words.

It sums up almost everything about Anderson, and McDowell's retelling of the somewhat grudging letter saying sorry could hardly be better. It evolves into an assessment of himself and the world which is both funny and revealing.

Definitely a film to cherish as an In Memoriam to an exceptional artist and a man who you couldn't help liking even at his most insufferable.


****Time Out London A Mini-Epic
Dave Calhoun
Issue 1941: October 31-November 6

The title arose from a spat that Lindsay Anderson once had with Alan Bates and for which he stubbornly refused to say sorry, but an even more appropriate tag for this musing on Anderson’s life and work by his friend Malcolm McDowell may have been ‘Surrounded By Fucking Idiots’, which the director of ‘This Sporting Life’ and ‘If…’ apparently once chose as his fantasy epitaph during a lunch with British film critics. It’s one of the many anecdotes that McDowell, Anderson’s collaborator on ‘If…’ and ‘O Lucky Man!’, recounts in this documentary which is a record of a stage tribute to his ‘mentor’ that McDowell first delivered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2004.

One imagines that Anderson himself, who died in 1994, may have found the very idea of this film ‘tiresome’, ‘suburban’ and ‘bourgeois’ – accusations attributed to him several times by McDowell, whether remembering his attitude to other filmmakers or home decoration. Yet Anderson may also have been rightly moved by the tenderness of McDowell’s many well-expressed recollections, which recount their work together and other aspects of Anderson’s life, such as his celibacy, his meeting with John Ford on the latter’s death bed, his friendship with the tragic Welsh actress Rachel Roberts, and his divisions of films between the ‘mini’ – meaning unimportant, rubbish, realist, not interesting, not layered – and the ‘epic’ – meaning layered, important and poetic. Brushing aside thoughts about what future this sort of filmed stand-up has in the age of the podcast, this warm film is the product of the loving memories of a friend. Sometimes the rhetoric inevitably tips into the arena of the luvvie but McDowell’s performance remains captivating and Anderson’s life a genuine fascination. A mini-epic, as he may not have said.


Los Angeles Times
Kenneth Turan
May 16, 2007
"Also of a documentary nature is Mike Kaplan's spirited "Never Apologize: A Personal Visit With Lindsay Anderson." This record of a one-man show by the actor and commanding storyteller Malcolm McDowell examines his 25-year relationship with the director who gave him his film start in "If …" and "O Lucky Man!," offering charming anecdotes as well as insights into the actor-director relationship."

Reuters/The Hollywood Reporter
Ray Bennett
Wed May 30, 2007

No apologies for stunning McDowell movie

CANNES (Hollywood Reporter) - Malcolm McDowell offers a reminder of the tremendous charisma he has onscreen in this film of his one-man stage show, "Never Apologize," about the late British filmmaker Lindsay Anderson.

The film is almost entirely McDowell telling tall tales and riveting anecdotes about the director with whom he made such classic pictures as the Palme d'Or winner "If . . ." (1968) and "O Lucky Man" (1972).

Directed by Mike Kaplan, who produced Anderson's final feature, "The Whales of August" (1987), the film will be treasured by audiences for its vivid insights into the art and imagination of one of the U.K.'s most influential directors. Most of all, it's simply great fun as McDowell never runs out of delicious stories to relate.

There's not a dry minute in the actor's telling of his lifelong relationship with a man who in his time was known and adored by practically everyone in British stage and film circles. This was in spite of holding fierce opinions and being free with a lacerating tongue, as the stories reveal.

McDowell developed the stage production originally for the Edinburgh Arts Festival. It was later presented at London's National Theatre. He and Kaplan devised it from their own rich memories and the Anderson archives at Stirling University in Scotland. As captivating as it was onstage, the film benefits from McDowell's screen presence and the skill of editors Eric Foster and Kate Johnson.

Many famous personalities show up as McDowell relates Anderson's story, including Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts and Alan Bates. There also is American director John Ford, whom Anderson worshipped and got to know.

The title of the piece, "Never Apologize," comes from a line of dialogue that John Wayne repeats several times in Ford's classic Western "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon." McDowell tells of the British director's visit to see the dying Ford, and the picture ends with Anderson singing "Red River Valley" from Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" over the final credits.

But earlier, McDowell has dramatically and often hilariously conjured up images from the sets of his own films including the preposterously awful "Caligula" costarring the unflappable John Gielgud. For anyone who loves movies, this is wonderful stuff.


Boston Herald
Stephen Schaefer
May 26th, 2007
Cannes Diary Final Day -

   Then there is Quentin Tarantino,  a force unto himself.  Tarantino already has his own film festival in Austin, Texas, South by Southwest.  He is also here in competition with his 127-minute version of “Death Proof” from “Grindhouse” and was a prominent guest at the “Cruising” retrospective screening.  Friday night the world’s ultimate movie fan was a prominent guest at Mike Kaplan’s “Never Apologize,” which was presented as part of the Cannes Classics series.  Basically a film of Malcolm McDowell’s one-man stage piece on his mentor, discoverer and friend, the director Lindsay Anderson, “Never Apologize” was introduced by jury president Stephen Frears who was a lowly assistant in 1968 when McDowell was cast as the star of Anderson’s “If” and came to Cannes for the first time where the surreal fantasy of high school rebellion won the Palme D’Or.
   McDowell and Kaplan were there as well for what is not just a tribute to the man who made “This Sporting Life,” “O Lucky Man” and the Bette Davis-Lillian Gish “Whales of August,” but a summoning back of ghosts past from a time when the director was lionized as much as stars were.  McDowell tells great stories about lots of famous people, from Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts to Alan Bates and smoking a joint with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson who were at his first Cannes with “Easy Rider.”

VARIETY
Russell Edwards

A Double M Prods., Travis Prods., Circle Associates presentation of a Travis Prods., Circle Associates production. (International sales: Circle Associates, Caldwell, Idaho.) Produced by Mike Kaplan, Malcolm McDowell. Directed by Mike Kaplan. Conceived by Malcolm McDowell, based on the writings of Lindsay Anderson, David Sherwin.

Warm and entertaining, "Never Apologize: A Personal Visit With Lindsay Anderson" is a baldly legit documentation of the iconoclastic Blighty helmer's cherished memories, as originally conceived for a one-man show by thesp and Anderson protege Malcolm McDowell. Basic theatrical presentation by mutual friend and producer Mike Kaplan will not deter cinephiles, assuring fest play and pubcaster consideration and possibly spurring future Anderson retros. Pic could also make an excellent DVD extra for ancillary packages.
Film begins with a black-garbed McDowell walking onto a spartan stage, where a lectern is offset by a wooden table setting adorned with a Union Jack tablecloth; a leather jacket belonging to Anderson hangs over one chair. Photographs and clips spanning Anderson's life from childhood to old age are interspersed through throughout the proceedings.

Moving between performance and recitations, thesp begins by recalling his audition for 1968's "If .... ," which marked the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration between the helmer and his faithful, if quarrelsome, student. McDowell also reads a relevant passage from book "Going Mad in Hollywood" by film's scripter, David Sherwin.

Thesp charts the success of "If ...." and his and Sherwin's determination to make a kind of sequel called "Coffee Man." Anderson characteristically badgered them into developing their idea into a superior, more surrealistic script, retitling it "O Lucky Man" (1972) on their behalf.

As read by McDowell, excerpts from Anderson's diaries and letters revive several amusing and emotional anecdotes, including a long-running feud with thesp Alan Bates and an astute observation of the stylistic differences between aging stars Lillian Gish and Bette Davis in the helmer's "The Whales of August" (1987). Recollection of Anderson's meeting with Hollywood icon John Ford is particularly touching.

Similarly moving are McDowell's affectionate reflections on the more hidden aspects of his mentor's personality. Like many thesps, McDowell sometimes gives the impression he prefers talking about himself. . But the beauty of this informative and entertaining document is that talking about Anderson is a closely held and heartfelt priority.

Helming by Kaplan (a longtime friend of McDowell's since their "A Clockwork Orange" days, who also worked as Anderson's producer on "The Whales of August") sparingly uses multiple camera setups but deliberately foregoes any pointless attempts to cinematize the theatrical setting. Kaplan's choice to use a photo of Anderson standing in Monument Valley while playing a tape of Anderson singing the song "Red River Valley" from Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) provides a moving coda.

Tech credits are pro. Matt Walla, Jesse Hagy, John Paul Meyer, Christoph Faubert; editor, Eric Foster, Kate Johnson; music, Alan Price; sound, Jim Corbett, Larry McMillan. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Cannes Classics), May 25, 2007. Running time: 111 MIN.


Columbia College
Matt Fagerholm
June 3, 2007
As the cinematic sun sets on the Riviera, here are my final five filmic reflections from the festival...

A regular visitor at the American Pavilion, Malcolm McDowell is a supremely intelligent and fiercely funny individual who deserves to be remembered as more than "Alex from A Clockwork Orange" or "that guy from Heroes." The iconic actor emerges as a singular force of nature in director Mike Kaplan's impeccably edited recording of McDowell's riveting one-man stage show. For two hours, the charismatic performer pays tribute to his dear friend, the late filmmaker Lindsay Anderson (who directed McDowell in If... and O Lucky Man!). His stories are alternately hilarious, chilling, and ultimately moving.

Columbia College Chicago is the largest and most diverse private arts and media college in the nation.More.....


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