Volume 1 - Issue 9 - For Marc... For Memory…?

By James Leahy

marc-karlin.jpgMarc Karlin

“A cinema that will unfreeze that icy and now constant experience of being addressed only as a social construct for the benefit of the market; a cinema where the tension between a world that is being illustrated and a world that is being illuminated can make us live again in that dream-state so necessary to our very breathing; a cinema, therefore, that will hurl itself against that current order of things, a cinema that is not a calling card for a career but a cinema that will march straight past this present Praetorian guard of cultural and commercial administrators and by so doing will deliver once again that wonderful surprise – that which is still possible.” – Marc Karlin 1943-1999

Marc Karlin loved Vertigo. Of course we all chipped in when we could, as best we could, but it was Marc who first saw the need for Vertigo as a voice for independent cinema, and for Marc each new issue was a child he had laboured to bring into the world. Rod Stoneman at Channel 4 helped to bring us all together, and provided initial funding, but it was Marc who repeatedly found a pattern in the diversity of our interests, then worked to weave it, and the fresh insights of new contributors, into the tapestry of words and images that, for him, each issue should represent.

Of course, we often thought Marc was wrong; sometimes we resented it when we found he was right. But we stuck together, because we knew that, without Marc and Lusia Films, there would be no Vertigo.

This issue of Vertigo has been put together without Marc. He was there at the planning stage. Half way through the last editorial meeting he attended there was a characteristic explosion of thought: “Estate agents’ films!” The nation on display: the camera never moves to explore a dramatic situation, it only moves to impress us with the glory of a stately home, or the past, the wealth of the nation or the taste of the aristocracy! As for our beloved living national treasure... How about a photo-montage: the three faces of Dame Judy? Re-do Kuleshov’s experiments, the ones Pudovkin wrote about? Cross-cut a suitably iconic close-up with Albert’s coffin… how subtly she expresses her grief! With the Prince of Wales… such dignity, why can’t he be more like her? With Billy Connolly… a Queen for all the people!

“Hold on!” some of us said: “That’s a hard line to take about a well-made TV film!”

“Right on!” others replied: “These well-made TV films are what the ‘cinéma du papa’ was in the fifties for the Young Turks of Cahiers. They’re the enemy of our cinema”.

But we’ve lost sight of the real estate… A few weeks after Marc’s outburst, we learned of a report explaining how British films and television adaptations boosted our tourist industry. Mrs Brown and Osborne House. Middlemarch and Stamford. Shortly after, an Oscar for Dame Judy. Now an all-white Notting Hill, and British cinema, once again, flavour of the month. And all the time Chris Smith in the background, beaming approval.

Marc himself had already described two kinds of cinema: one comfortable and cosy, pleasurable because it explored what was familiar; another, often difficult or uncomfortable, because it showed us something new, or made us see something old in a new way.

This is one of the perceptions of Marc’s Radio 3 interview with Patrick Wright. Illuminating and full of insights, it’s a wonderful summary of what Marc thought, and a demonstration of why we miss him so much. We are presenting it in this issue because it is a summary of what we believe in, why we first came together to produce Vertigo, and why we are determined to go on doing so.

Lusia Films is to continue, with two of Marc’s regular collaborators at the helm – Monica Henriquez and Jonathan Collinson – and will continue to be our home. Just what kind of new structure will emerge for Vertigo we don’t yet know, but in putting this issue together we’ve found a new voice. We’re not just doing it for Marc, or for memory. We’re doing it for ourselves, and for the future.

I can imagine Marc looking up, amused, exasperated, and saying: “Has it taken you all these years to see that?”