Gilbert Adair – acerbic, astute and a true cinephile

Mike Higgins pays tribute to former IoS film critic

Gilbert Adair, who died last week at the age of 66, was for two years at the end of the last century the chief film critic of The Independent on Sunday. Each week, he filed a column that wasn't merely his pithy, often withering assessment of that week's most eye-catching release; incrementally, his reviews amounted to a rearguard action in defence of his beloved cinema, which, in his view, was suffering in "an era of pandemic imagorrhea ... [and] such parasitical media as television, video and advertising". This makes him sound elitist, which he was, and no fun at all, which he certainly wasn't.

As he pronounced upon, damned and just occasionally approved of the week's offerings, he did so in a voice that deprecated its owner's undeniable cinephile authority – a ludic, knowing quality that extended beyond his writing on film. His irresistibly playful fiction ranged from Agatha Christie pastiches (the Evadne Mount trilogy) to literary thrillers (A Closed Book), via imagined further adventures of Peter Pan and Lewis Carroll's Alice. Three of Adair's books themselves became films: Love and Death on Long Island, a comic recasting of Death in Venice; his somewhat autobiographical account of his days in 1968 Paris, The Holy Innocents (filmed as The Dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci); and A Closed Book. There was also an impressive body of non-fiction, among which his quite personal history of the cinema, Flickers, and Movies, the anthology of film writing that he edited, are still fondly and rightly remembered.

Adair also wrote for The Independent on Sunday a year-long column called The Guillotine, which throughout 1999 detailed, in his estimation, those figures who would fall out of the canon soon in the new century (Henry Moore, Bugs Bunny, Kenneth Tynan ...). Underlying that column was the seeming anxiety that Adair himself was not cut out for the 21st century. Though he was prolific until the brain haemorrhage that finally killed him, Adair's taste for the pell-mell of modern life was, perhaps, limited (despite the fact that he had thrown stones at the police in Paris in 1968): he didn't like the Tube, and distrusted email to the extent that his editors here were required to read out to him the first and last sentences of each paragraph of his review each week. The prospect, too, that he might, as his father had, lose his fragile eyesight was of frequent worry to him; sadly, in the last months of his life, Adair's sight did indeed fail him.

When this newspaper was unfortunate enough to lose his services a decade ago, even the apparently pessimistic Adair couldn't hide the delight in his voice when he said that he was too busy with his new project to continue reviewing – and who could blame him for choosing Bernardo Bertolucci over The Independent on Sunday?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

SharePoint Administrator/Developer (C#, VB.NET, VISUAL STUDIO 2

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...

European HR Director, London

£80000 - £95000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation Ja...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit