David Mcalmont remembers Film Director Mike Nichols (1931 – 2014)

Written by David Mcalmont
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David Mcalmont remembers Film Director Mike Nichols.

In the mid eighties at high school in Guyana a friend of mine was reading a Liz Taylor biography. I remember leafing through the glossy black and white photos in the centre and seeing a photograph of Liz looking dishevelled and deranged. I thought she was playing a character called Virginia Woolf because the title attached to the picture was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

And Liz looked... well... Scary!
Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf - Elizabeth TaylorA few years later at my aunt’s house in Croydon I finally saw the movie one night. I was pinned to my chair by the force of Richard Burton’s performance, being seriously concerned that he’d stopped acting and was actually expressing the emotions for real. It was the first time a performance had that kind of effect on me. Similarly, after years of watching silly B movies and kids’ stuff, I became aware that night that film could actually confront and unsettle in an affecting, memorable way; the movie was directed by Mike Nichols.
As the years have passed I have found myself enjoying movies by the same director, not knowing that he directed them until I checked. Cineastes have tended not to afford him the same status as a Scorcese, a Coppola, even a Lynch: their names precede their releases like a fanfare; not so with Nichols and no matter; one might even argue that he had given himself less to live up to.
Postcards from the Edge (1990) is a film I think of often: Shirley Maclaine singing I’m Here isn’t easily forgotten, or her statement, after alcoholism places her in hospital, “I only drink socially,” which I have used often. Silkwood (1983) is deliberate of pace, but earnest enough. Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver doing battle in Working Girl (1988) reminded me of the 1930s screwball tendency and the fun of movies like The Women (1939) and performances by the likes of Rosalind Russell. And The Birdcage (1996) is an adaptation of a faultless French original that worked better than anyone could have dared hope. To these titles must be added the sun soaked super eight-esque iconography of The Graduate (1967) and the revulsion of Catch 22 (1970), and many more...
The news today that Nichols spotted and brought to greater notice one of the best- and one of my favourite- actresses, Whoopi Goldberg, makes his passing today even sadder. The iconic is not easily fashioned. In this respect Nichols at least smashed a few good ones out of the park.

Mike Nichols - Catch 22
Read 1888 times Last modified on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 16:49

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