Tuesday, May 26, 2020
JOHN BOORMAN: CONCLUSIONS. Some Thoughts Upon Reading
The Lilly Library Indiana University Oct. 27th, 2016
“In old age, words escape me. If I wait patiently, they float up, and I recapture them. If that fails, I am obligated to go down to the cellar, where they languish, and drag them back up. I note that water is starting into the cellar. I fear that some words will drown and be lost for ever. The quest for harmony of word and image has been my life. Sight loss is making the world look like Turners. While I still can, I hasten to testify.” John Boorman
One begins to read a book on John Boorman to further gain insight into the thoughts of a unique filmmaker who directed films such as Zardoz, Point Blank, Excalibur, Deliverance. To this end the book will satisfy those looking for further insight and kernels of more film knowledge. Such as Lee Marvin agreed to make Point Blank on the condition that they throw out the existing script and start anew. As well as how it was David Lean who unknowingly saved Point Blank and Mr. Boorman's first American feature film from being stopped before production was set to begin.
The book begins with the heading TYPEWRITER and Mr. Boorman writes of his teacher and mentor John Maquire who encouraged the sixteen year old to pursue becoming a writer. John's mother then bought him a used typewriter. "where I sat every night tapping away with two fingers, a bottle of Tipp-Ex at hand" He would go on to have some success publishing some short stories. This yearning for story telling would soon find another way of expression and become the major driving pursuit of John Boorman's life.
In the opening pages we read about when John begin to make movies on Super 8 with his school friend Barry Vince."This was our fantasy. Film-making was a distant dream and occupied by people who went to Oxford." These pages took me back to my high school days and making films with my friend John Harvey and our VHS cameras. Running around our hometown as gangsters and suffering artists. Our movies were first inspired by John Woo, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. As we continued our films became more personal and more art-house with our love for grindhouse still embedded in our short films.
A notable early passage where Mr. Boorman speaks about beginning to make the film The Emerald Forrest and living with indigenous people of the Xingu region of the Amazon rain forrest and how the tribe sees themselves as part of the greater whole rather than seperate beings and how our fixation on individuality can be alienating. As I reading through these particular pages I was thinking of the current moment of time we are all sharing amidst the spread of COVID-19. Of the need to collectively wear masks in public that do not necessarily protect us but to protect the other people we will come into contact with. Mr. Boorman takes this philosophy and applies it to making a film. "However clear your vision , you cannot make a movie on your own. You need a tribe. As a director you struggle to communicate to the cast and crew the essential nature of the film you are making. If things go well , there comes a magical moment when they 'get' what you are trying to achieve. From that moment, the film makes itself.' I was thinking of how the film-making process will be altered as time moves forward in the new era of the cornavirus Another exceptionally strong section for me personally was when Mr. Boorman takes us through his personal film school. Sections on writing, rehearsals with actors, another section on shot selection which will be a section I revisit often.
As I read Conclusions there were many times I had the feeling as though I was sitting by a fireplace in Wicklow Hills, Ireland across from Mr. Boorman as we spent an evening drinking scotch as I listened to his stories of film-making, life and friendships and family as well as his affinity for water and trees. As I was nearing the end of the book it really felt as though I was privy to a very private and intimate conversation with a person who is very much more than the films that brought me to this book. Mr. Boorman is clearly preparing for the end of a life lived. He has outlived many of his film-making contemporaries as well as losing friends and family. His words convey a sense of peace as well as preparing for death. He is still very much driven by imagination and curiosity of our shared existence and the planet we currently call home. As I read the last words of Conclusions there is a hint of regret in Mr. Boorman's words that so much of his time was spent in the pursuit of making films. Ultimately it is the life we have lived which is of utmost importance. Life is about the friends and family the precede us to the other side and the friends and family we leave behind. May our stories live well after us.