In 1965, famous author and playwright Samuel Beckett released his only film. Entitled simply Film, the work proved utterly divisive – panned by some, celebrated by others – but has remained the subject of ardent criticism ever since. Involving an odd collaboration with legendary comic actor Buster Keaton (who was forced into taking the part by financial difficulties, despite understanding little of the script’s concept), Film was an eclectic chase-movie, a contemplative, existential exploration of the cinematic apparatus. Into the landscape on discussion about Film comes Notfilm, an experimental essay on the conception, production and impact, both philosophically and cinematically, of the original work.
Director Ross Lipman is our guide on this mammoth journey, his enthusiasm for the project palpable at all times. Lipman inevitably demands from his viewers a certain degree of knowledge of Beckett’s life and work, his chosen audience no doubt the kind of crowd who have already spent a great deal of time contemplating his subject. Other viewers may miss out, given that he offers little in the way of an introductory path, which is a shame, but as a former Senior Restorationist at UCLA Film and Television Archive, Lipman has cleverly taken an approach that is sure to keep their interest, packing his essay with complementary clips from the likes of Eisenstein, Brunel and Vigo. Throw into the mix archival Keaton and Chaplin footage (Chaplin having been Beckett’s first choice for the leading role) and we have a film that all cineastes, not just the philosophically minded, can appreciate. Keep an ear out, too, for the score by internationally renowned Mihaly Vig, which further adds to Notfilm’s delights.
Notfilm presents many recent discoveries to the world for the first time, including some exceedingly rare recordings of Beckett’s voice, in which he discusses the making of Film with his collaborators. Lipman’s archaeological approach is combined with interviews with a range of figures, from those that knew Beckett personally (his muse Billie Whitelaw, biographer James Knowlson and other friends) as well as film historians, painting an illustrious picture of Beckett’s work and irreversibly changing the way in which it is viewed.
Notfilm does not yet have an official UK release date. It is part of the Dare competition at the 59th London Film Festival.
Watch the trailer for Notfilm here: