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A British Revolutionary

LACMA rolls out a sampling of Lindsay Anderson's rich and varied films. Featured are the late director's groundbreaking, class-conscious 'This Sporting Life' and a few of his short films.

October 05, 2000|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Coinciding with the publication of Gavin Lambert's "Mainly About Lindsay Anderson," a film series sharing the same title as the book about the late British director unspools at LACMA. Anderson had a rich and varied career, ranging from film criticism to documentary filmmaking, and became one of Britain's major directors in the '60s and '70s. He later enjoyed yet another career in the theater, where, among other productions, he staged a series of notable David Storey plays.

Influenced by pioneer documentarian Humphrey Jennings as well as by John Ford, Anderson broke with the genteel tradition of British cinema with such films as the class-conscious "This Sporting Life" (1963). Written by Storey, the film stars Richard Harris as a miner who becomes an amateur soccer star and becomes tragically involved with a troubled widow, played by Rachel Roberts. Anderson and scenarist Storey, via a bold flashback structure, linked emotional and physical violence in the soccer player's life. Anderson went on to make "If . . ." (1969), a stylistically venturesome depiction of brutal British school life, which starred Malcolm McDowell. It was followed in 1973 by an even more ambitious sequel, "O Lucky Man!" (1973), which takes McDowell, now a coffee salesman, an on odyssey that caustically illuminates virtually every aspect of British society. Anderson's final feature film was the elegiac "The Whales of August" (1987), which teamed Bette Davis and Lillian Gish as two very different sisters; the film co-starred Ann Sothern and Vincent Price.

"Mainly About Lindsay Anderson" begins Friday in Bing Theater at 7:30 p.m. with a program of short films, followed by "This Sporting Life." "O Dreamland" (1953) is a 12-minute study of grim-faced, lower-middle-class types supposedly having fun at a seedy old amusement zone, where exploitation of its customers is underlined by the hollow laughter of a mechanized clown.

Based on a 15-page Shelagh Delaney story, the 46-minute "The White Bus" (1966) is a striking blend of documentary and the surreal as a young London secretary, overcome with loneliness and despair, hangs herself in the monumental building where she works, her corpse unnoticed by the night-shift charwoman. We are transported into a fantasy in which the young woman experiences a series of bizarre encounters that culminate in a bus tour that skewers the pomposity and injustice of a society living in past grandeur.

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Malcolm McDowell will appear with Lambert, preceding a screening of "If . . .," which will be followed by the delightful, 50-minute film "Is That All There Is?" (1994), in which Anderson turned the camera on himself to suggest a typical day in his life. Anderson, warm yet acerbic, receives many visitors and colleagues in his comfortable London flat. It concludes with a boatload of friends helping him bid a warm farewell to actresses Roberts and Jill Bennett, his friends whose ashes he had kept on his mantel. In the film, he scatters their ashes in the Thames as Alan Price sings the Leiber & Stoller standard made famous by Peggy Lee, "Is That All There Is?" Anderson shot this witty self-portrait in May 1994 for BBC Scotland, which aired it the following September, shortly after Anderson's death from a heart attack at age 71. Next weekend: "O Lucky Man!" (Friday at 7:30 p.m.) and (on Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m.) John Ford's "My Darling Clementine" (1946) and "The Whales of August." For information: (323) 857-6010.

Lambert, historian, screenwriter and novelist, whose interview book "On Cukor" has been republished in an expanded edition, will also appear at the Egyptian Theater on Sunday after the 5 p.m. screening of George Cukor's "What Price Hollywood?" (1932) and preceding the screening of Cukor's "A Star Is Born" (1954), which is a reworking of the earlier film. They are part of the American Cinematheque's "Hollywood on Hollywood" series, based at the Egyptian, which opens tonight at 7 with Vincente Minnelli's "The Bad and the Beautiful" (1952) and King Vidor's "Show People" (1928). The Egyptian is at 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Information: (323) 466-FILM.

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