The Cinema of Donald Cammell
February 2 - 11, 2007
Donald Cammell’s life hit as many high, disconnected notes as his work.
Son of a poet – allegedly the godson of occultist Aleister Crowley. Born in Scotland in an atmosphere of “magicians, metaphysicians, spiritualists and demons.” Heir to a shipping fortune that disappeared soon after his birth. A prodigy.
Cammell trained as a painter at the Royal College of Art and in Florence, before waltzing right into the heart of swinging London. He played Osiris, God of Death, for director/friend Kenneth Anger and worked his way into movies writing screenplays. Then he exploded onto the scene and all over film history with Performance, a movie as nerve shattering and ego splitting as it is intoxicating and enchanting.
After attracting the attention of Marlon Brando, Cammell began a series of stormy adventures that finally produced one collaborative novel called Fan-Tan. As a director, he slipped in an early entry in techno-horror (Demon Seed) and the then-nascent genre of the serial killer (the eternally underestimated White of the Eye), then returned to triumphant unclassifiability with Wild Side, converted to a more classifiable form by financiers Nu Image, but subsequently – and happily – restored to its original form.
“I predicted Donald Cammell's suicide,” said Kenneth Anger. “He was in love with death.” On April 24, 1996, perhaps haunted by the specter of failure and certainly disgusted with the treatment accorded his final feature, Donald Cammell shot himself in the top of his head, spending his carefully pre-calculated final 45 minutes observing his own life ebbing away in a mirror held up by his wife.
“Donald was madness,” said producer Elliot Kastner, “but his talent was unquestionable.” Cammell made only a handful of films, but he had a career as hauntingly brilliant as any in film history.