Sunday 4 December 2011

Made to be destroyed

I've had the BFI Screen Epiphanies book by Geoffrey Macnab for a few years now and although I've read most of it I still dip in and out of it and discover new things.  Most recently I was reading the chapter with Atom Egoyan and came across some interesting information relating to Lindsay Anderson's In Celebration.  

Still from the filming of In Celebration ©Stirling University Archives

Atom Egoyan is a Canadian film maker.  In the chapter in this book he talks about his early love of the theatre and this leads him on to talking about The American Film Theatre.  This was a series devised by Ely Landau, a film producer with a strong interest in adapting plays for the cinema.  He invited different film directors to do just that and the result was fourteen very different films with varying degrees of success and popularity. The first of the series Egoyan saw was Peter Hall's version of The Homecoming and he explains his excitement in realising that he could bring together his love of the theatre with his love of modern film makers.

What was interesting to me is that Egoyan says that the idea behind the American Film Theatre series was "that these films would travel to various cities that would never get the play. After the projections, the prints would be destroyed. that was the theory.  It would preserve the ephemeral nature of the experience."  He goes on to explain that this never took place, and we know that as all fourteen films are now available on DVD.  There's so much current talk all over the web, and on film archive discussion boards and mailing lists, about the 'death of film' so it was interesting to read of a series of films who, according to Egoyan, were not supposed to be preserved but were in fact made with their impending destruction in mind.  Can anyone corroborate this? I can't find anything online about Ely Landau's intending to destroy the films and I don't remember seeing anything about it in the Lindsay Anderson Archive either.  All I remember from that is Anderson's frustrations with the lack on advertising and publicity which he felt his film was getting (if you're interested you can search the Lindsay Anderson Archive here).


  1. My guess from reading the Lindsay Anderson Archive materials for our chapter on the film version of In Celebration (in Lindsay Anderson: Film Authorship, Manchester University Press, 2012 forthcoming) is that he would have been shocked if he had learnt there was a plan to destroy the American Film Theatre films. I do not recall seeing any evidence that scrapping them was in Landau's mind, however.

    John Izod

  2. I don't remember seeing anything to that effect either. That's why I thought I'd cast the net wider and ask through this blog - maybe there is material in other archives, other correspondence with Landau which could confirm, or refute these claims.

  3. Hi, I'm unable to speak to the question you asked, but this really stood out for me: I've never heard Egoyan referred to as an Armenian filmmaker before. (I'm Canadian, and a big fan of his movies.) According to Wikipedia, he moved from Egypt to Canada when he was 2.... Is that how the BFI refers to him? Armenian? He's Canadian!

  4. Hello,
    No don't go blaming the BFI, the mistake is mine! All the BFI book says is that he has Armenian heritage and explores this in some of his films. I shall change it to Canadian, thanks for letting me know.