Faber & Faber, £17.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

Book review: The World Is Ever Changing, By Nicolas Roeg

Cut by cut, the great maverick director creates a scintillating montage of memory

Nicolas Roeg, 85, is one of the darkest and most unsettling of post-war British film-makers. In a career that spans half a century from his debut as a clapperboy for British MGM in 1950 to the present, his romantic and sometimes brutal imagination has confronted such subjects as sexual awakening in the Australian outback and the rape of a drugged woman in post-Freud Vienna.

Get money off this title at the Independent book shop

Roeg's two most famous films have acquired cult status. Performance, his 1970 debut, told of gangster's mental disintegration in a hippie enclave of Notting Hill; Don't Look Now (1973) was a meditation on supernatural coincidence set in Venice that still frightens like an unlucky number. These films, with their scenes of tumultuous sex and disorientating camera-work, radiate a fierce beauty and disquiet that could only be Roeg's.

Born in London in 1928, Roeg fell in love with cinema at an early age. Babes in Toyland, with Laurel and Hardy, was the first movie to open up the "mystery" of celluloid make-believe. Roeg's has always been a painterly imagination in thrall to landscape. In his stylish science fantasy The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), starring David Bowie as a translucent-looking alien, Roeg made haunting use of the New Mexico deserts. His more recent work, with its trademark plot twists and rapid cross-cutting, has often been critically mauled. Only now can we see a film like Puffball (2006), based on the Fay Weldon novel, as enduring.

In The World Is Ever Changing, a book of reflections on film and the art of illusion, Roeg chronicles his "flawed life" as a director and cinema enthusiast. The book is concerned chiefly with Roeg's understanding of the "memory" of things. And, as memory has "no continuity of time", says Roeg, so the chapters can be read in any random order (Roeg has always set great store by the workings of chance).

In conversational prose, Roeg tells of his apprenticeship as a cameraman for David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago), Roger Corman and Francois Truffaut. From Truffaut he seems to have acquired an admiration for actors and their craft. Jenny Agutter was unforgettable as the schoolgirl lost in the Australian outback in Roeg's coming-of-age classic Walkabout (1971); Theresa Russell, Roeg's wife at the time, played Marilyn Monroe in Insignificance (1985), alongside Tony Curtis as a corrupted American senator.

The famous love scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in Don't Look Now was reckoned to be shocking in its day. Yet there is nothing pornographic in it, says Roeg; rather, it shows a couple making love in a Venice hotel after their marriage has been put to the test by the death of their daughter. Daphne du Maurier, on whose novella the film was based, reportedly admired the film.

Roeg is no stranger to controversy. Performance, with Mick Jagger as a burnt-out rock star, was shelved for a year before Warner Brothers dared release it; Bad Timing (1980), starring Art Garfunkel as a repressed American psychoanalyst (and suspect rapist), was condemned even by its own distributor Rank as a "sick film made by sick people for sick people." Roeg, then 52, was already established as a director in the visionary company of Powell and Pressburger, and cared little for box-office approval.

The World is Ever Changing, a work of rare poetic insight, is tinged with the amazement and self-examination of an older man looking back on a most unusual career. "The strings of the lyre of modern poets are endless strips of celluloid," wrote Franz Kafka. Roeg, who effectively invented a new language cinematic language, might agree.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine