Conclusions: Part memoir, part director’s handbook

Book review: Excalibur director John Boorman, now 87, is very much the lion in winter

 John Boorman in Paris in 2014. Photograph:  MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

John Boorman in Paris in 2014. Photograph: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

Werner Herzog once stated that you can’t be a filmmaker unless you have a regular reading habit. He, along with John Boorman, might be among the last of a dying breed: the director who reads for sustenance, who is as comfortable with an 800-page Russian novel as a 90-page screenplay. In line with William Goldman’s dictum that anyone involved in the film business had better write books on the side in order to keep themselves sane, Boorman has published several titles over the past 40 years: an Emerald Forest on-set diary, a memoir (Adventures of a Suburban Boy, 2003) and even a novel, Crimes of Passion, completed in his ninth decade. He’s also the co-founder and editor of Faber’s Projections series, and his books come bearing blurbs from the likes of Banville and Auster.

Boorman, now 87, is very much the lion in winter; although he might be better described as a fox, an ambitious but independent-minded filmmaker who navigated the Hollywood herd by stealth, resulting in a career characterised by masterpieces (Point Blank, Deliverance) cult oddities (Zardoz, Excalibur) and the occasional high-profile disaster (Exorcist II: The Heretic). Conclusions, his second memoir, bears the formal prose style of the refined older man, but there’s little of your high-faluting film theory here: the aspiring auteur will learn plenty about how to light a scene, scout a location, or outwit hostile governmental agencies, among the 1,001 other practical applications required to get film in the can.

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