In 1964, playwright Samuel Beckett, Buster Keaton, cinematographer Boris Kaufman, and director Alan Schneider came together to make a short, dialogue-free work simply titled Film. An investigation of both the cinematic medium and the nature of human consciousness, it premiered at the Venice Film Festival and screened at the 2nd New York Film Festival to mixed critical response. In Beckett’s scenario, Keaton plays “O,” who tries desperately to evade the reality of the maxim esse est percipi (to be is to be seen) but finds his every effort futile. Beckett judged the final result “an interesting failure”—interesting enough for Ross Lipman to devote two-plus hours to this remarkable exploration of the making of a 22-minute film. Featuring audio recordings of Beckett in discussion with Schneider, Kaufman, and producer and Grove Press head Barney Rosset, this fascinating and unprecedented “making-of” also gives us interviews with Rosset and actress and Beckett muse Billie Whitelaw. As Scott Eyman puts it in a soon-to-be-published Film Comment piece: “As we witness Rossett and Whitelaw struggling beneath the oppressive weight of age, the documentary becomes about memory and its fading. In other words, the obliteration that waits for us all—the foundation of Beckett’s art.” A Milestone Films release.

Screening with:

Alan Schneider, USA, 1964, 22m