Nicolas Roeg

By: David Smay
August 15, 2010

His eye was so beautiful that NICOLAS ROEG (born 1928) would’ve been a great cinematographer in any age, but only the Seventies would accommodate the baggy ambiguities of his genius as a director. Which is curious because his forebears are Sixties art house lions like Godard, Antonioni, and especially Resnais, who shared his interest in film’s unique dislocations of time, space, and psyche. It’s common to talk around an artist by commenting on the depth of his vision, but it’s truer of Roeg to speak of the width of his vision, which favors human figures isolated against the horizon. Nobody trawls their camera so low to the ground as Roeg, giving us the bug’s eye view of human disconnection. All those estranged lover-couples at the center of his narratives — Sutherland and Christie in Don’t Look Now, Agutter and David Gulpilil in Walkabout, Bowie and Clark in The Man Who Fell to Earth — unable to breach the envelopes of their skin no matter how urgent, awkward, or thwarted their couplings. Always tragic in the end. But Roeg’s tragic vision yields before the genius of his eye. We don’t leave his films sorrowful, but rapt, scene after scene unspooling again behind our eyes.



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