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3.8.09

Beckett Speaks

Samuel Beckett discusses What Where in Paris hotel room


A rare and wonderful glimpse of writer and dramatist Samuel Beckett speaking in Paris, 1987. The video includes a discussion of the play What Where, and an appearance from Beckett scholar Stanley Gontarski, who discusses its historical significance. (Thanks to Stephen Mitchelmore's This Space.)

Anthony Cronin describes the circumstances of the clip in his biography, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist:
When Barney [Rosset] arrived in Paris towards the end of 1987 he was accompanied by the American film-maker John Reilly, who wanted to make a film of Beckett's life. They had brought with them several videos of American productions of the plays, some of which, such as Ohio Impromptu, Beckett had never seen produced in any form. They took a room in the PLM to show him the videos and on the way up in the lift Barney mentioned casually that Reilly would like to make a biographical film, to which Beckett assented without demur. Whenever he was supposed to join them in the hotel they would watch for him from the window and, to Reilly's amazement, he would walk slowly across the street through the racing traffic, apparently oblivious of danger. Reilly observed that he had difficulty in walking and this was beginning to be the case, for his legs were now affected by his circulatory problems.

Beckett took an intense interest in the productions he saw on video, some of which had been directed and the videos made by S. E. Gontarski, who was a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and editor of the Journal of Beckett Studies, a publication in which academic views of aspects of Beckett's work were now regularly aired. In the film Riley made there is a shot of Beckett leaning forward to watch Gontarski's production of What Where on the monitor in the hotel bedroom. He is watching it so intensely that he is reading some of the words with his lips and seems to be conducting the tempo of the speeches with his hands.

Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist
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