When Nicolas Roeg’s haunting masterpiece Don’t Look Now (1973) grabbed the top spot as the Greatest British Film of All Time in a 2011 Time Out poll of film professionals— with three other Roeg films ranking in the top 70 — it gave pause to reflect on an erratic, provocative, and fiercely original body of work that continually, defiantly tested the limits of commercial cinema at every gutsy turn. Adult themes, explicit sex, far-out film grammar: these were the contents of Roeg’s wheelhouse, and he brandished them with cool indifference to bottom lines or changing trends.
“Too many films today feel formulaic and familiar. I prefer it when the familiar is made to feel strange.” – Nicolas Roeg
Already a distinguished cinematographer when he became a director — he shot, among others, Truffaut’s visually dazzling Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and Richard Lester’s psychotropic Petulia (1968) — Roeg cemented his reputation as “the great conundrum of British cinema” (Sight & Sound) with a stellar run of art films in the 1970s that divided critics, scandalized studios, and barely saw theatrical distribution. (This despite having pop stars Mick Jagger and David Bowie in half of them.) By turns passionate, violent, erotic, and oblique, these four sequential masterworks — Performance (1970, with co-director Donald Cammell), Walkabout (1971), Don’t Look Now, and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) — made no money but made a strong case for Roeg as one of the most modern and innovative filmmakers of the decade. Roeg considered time and memory to be the raison d’être of cinema, and his best and most boundary-pushing films explore — and explode! — those concepts through a delirium of prismatic, nonlinear editing patterns that blur the lines between past, present, and future. The elliptical cinema of Todd Haynes, Danny Boyle, Steven Soderbergh, Gaspar Noé, and Christopher Nolan are unthinkable without him. In honor of his passing on November 23, 2018 at the age 90, The Loft Cinema proudly presents The Films of Nicolas Roeg, a select retrospective of Roeg’s daring, dangerous, censors-be-damned works that helped change the face of British cinema.