In memoriam

The Gilbert Adair files

Gilbert Adair

Michael Brooke introduces our tribute trove of reviews, features, columns and wind-ups written by the late Gilbert Adair for S&S and our former sister publication the Monthly Film Bulletin

The narrative content of Gilbert Adair’s various obituaries has generally been weighted towards the last two decades of his career: the broadsheet columns, the screenplays, the books (fiction and non-fiction) and the translations (including the mind-boggling Georges Perec-sourced A Void). Although understandable, this has tended to obscure the fact that in the late 1970s and 80s, he was not merely one of the best writers ever to grace the pages of Sight & Sound and the Monthly Film Bulletin, but also one of the most immediately recognisable. When he took over S&S’s pseudonymous Double Takes column in the mid-80s, he was rumbled almost immediately as ‘Heurtebise’, and the true authorship of the Roland Barthes-accredited April Fool, ‘The Nautilus and the Nursery’, was also never seriously in doubt.

Under his own name, he was a prolific contributor, and this selection merely scratches the surface. As an amuse-bouche (for what tribute to Adair would be complete without an italicised French interpolation?), we publish half a dozen capsule reviews he wrote for the Monthly Film Bulletin in 1979-80. His often-hidden Scottish roots are celebrated by his review of Gregory’s Girl, his future creative collaborations by a lengthy portrait of Raúl Ruiz (already a friend) and reviews of Bertolucci’s La Luna and The Outsiders (whose penultimate paragraph clearly anticipates the similarly rhapsodic prose of his novel ‘Love and Death on Long Island’), and his various cultural interests by a trio of reviews of music-related films, and of the work of some favourite artists (Antonioni, Bresson, Cocteau, Straub/Huillet), plus a juxtaposition of near-contemporary sci-fi films by Tarkovsky and Spielberg. Many pieces from this period were later reworked as essays for his idiosyncratic cinema-centenary celebration Flickers (Faber & Faber), which remains one of the most stimulating and provocative overviews ever published. RIP.

The Gilbert Adair files

#Early reviews 1979-80

Six of Adair’s early capsule reviews from the Monthly Film Bulletin

#The rubicon and the rubik cube
Winter 1981/82

Adair on exile, paradox and Raúl Ruiz

#Memories of youth, anticipations of maturity
Winter 1979-80 and Autumn 1983

Adair’s reviews of La Luna and The Outsiders

#One elephant, two elephant
Summer 1981

Adair’s reviews of That Sinking Feeling and Gregory’s Girl

#Meandrous expeditions
Winter 1980/81 and Winter 1982/83

Adair’s reviews of Stalker and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

#Adair on music
Spring 1985, Spring 1986 and Monthly Film Bulletin March 1985

Reviews of Amadeus, Carmen and Ginger & Fred (Spring 1985, Spring 1986 and Monthly Film Bulletin

#The Nautilus and the nursery
Spring 1985

Roland Barthes’s [sic] April Fools paean to the Carry On cycle

#Double takes: Heurtebise
Winter 1984 to Summer 1985

Adair’s pseudonymous contributions to Sight & Sound’s Double Takes column

Autumn 1981; Spring 1985; Summer 1987

Select Adair celebrations of Jean Cocteau, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet and Robert Bresson

David Thompson remembers Gilbert Adair in the February 2012 issue of Sight & Sound, on sale 3 January 2012

See also

Gilbert Adair’s top ten films (September 2002)

The Dreamers reviewed by Ginette Vincendeau (February 2004)

Last Updated: 23 Dec 2011