Thursday, February 16, 2017

Talking Out of Turn #50 (Podcast): Lindsay Anderson (1984)

Lindsay Anderson and Malcolm McDowell on the set of If....

From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts at CJRT-FM in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, I did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields. In 1994, after I had gone to CBC, I had an idea to collate an interview anthology from some of the more interesting discussions I'd had with guests from that period. Since they all took place during the eighties, I thought I could edit the collection into an oral history of the decade from some of its most outspoken participants. The book was assembled from interview transcripts and organized thematically. I titled it Talking Out of Turn: Revisiting the '80s. With financial help from the Canada Council, I shaped the individual pieces into a number of pertinent themes relevant to the decade. By the time I began to contact publishers, though, the industry was starting to change. At one time, editorial controlled marketing. Now the reverse was taking place. Acquisition editors, who once responded to an interesting idea for a book, were soon following marketing divisions concerned with whether the person doing it was hot enough to sell it. 

Tom Fulton, host and producer of On the Arts.
For a few years, I flogged the proposal to various publishers but many were worried that there were too many people from different backgrounds (e.g., 
Doris Kearns Goodwin sitting alongside Clive Barker). Another publisher curiously chose to reject it because, to them, it appeared to be a book about me promoting my interviews (as if I were trying to be a low-rent Larry King) rather than seeing it as a commentary on the decade through the eyes of the guests. The book soon faded away and I turned to other projects. However, when recently uncovering the original proposal and sample interviews, I felt that maybe some of them could find a new life on Critics at Large.

During the eighties, England was going through the trauma of finding itself no longer able to maintain the power and the glory it once possessed when it was an empire. So, England elected a leader, Margaret Thatcher, who (like Ronald Reagan in the U.S.) promised to restore those "glory days" at any cost. Of course, ultimately neither Reagan and Thatcher came close to restoring anything glorious. But both were larger-than-life figures and both did change the political landscape dramatically. 

In this section of Talking Out of Turn, which looked at the political turmoil in England, I wanted to include individuals who predated Thatcher as well as those who were her contemporaries. At CJRT-FM, I was lucky enough to speak to a few artists who spanned those generations: authors Margaret Drabble (The Radiant Way) and Alan Sillitoe (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), and film directors Stephen Frears and Lindsay Anderson. Together, they helped flesh out the past and the present of Britain's years of political turmoil.

Like Sillitoe, Lindsay Anderson knew how to rail against the Empire with films like If.... (1968) and O Lucky Man! (1973). Since he was of an older generation than Sillitoe, his look back in time (as a way of anticipating what was to come) has the virtue of giving us a unique perspective on what changed in England in his lifetime. Anderson passed away in 1994. In 2004, an edited collection of his writings, entitled Never Apologise, was published.

– Kevin Courrier.

Here is the full interview with Lindsay Anderson as it aired on CJRT-FM in 1984.

 Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa, Randy Newman's American Dreams33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask ReplicaArtificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism.  

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