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; tangentially, his self-obsession frequently gets the better of him.
But the beauty of this informative and entertaining document is that despite the thesp’s self-centeredness, talking about Anderson is a closely held and heartfelt second 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. At single Cannes screening caught, credit crawl stipulated that final clearances are pending.