“My film, Notfilm, is a documentary about the embattled collaboration between Nobel Prize-winning playwright Samuel Beckett and silent-era genius Buster Keaton. Beckett’s only work for projected cinema, aptly called Film, is in essence a chase film: the craziest ever committed to celluloid.
I first read Beckett’s script for Film in my late teens, long before seeing the movie. It immediately grabbed hold of me as one of cinema’s great curiosities, and hasn’t left me since. When my friend Andrew Lampert at Anthology Film Archives contacted me about preserving Film, I jumped at the chance. In New York, I met with its producer, Barney Rosset, the legendary founder of Grove Press. Rosset soon deposited Film with the UCLA Film & Television Archive where I was working, and with generous funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation and The Film Foundation and top-notch work from my colleagues at the labs, we were able to restore Beckett’s original vision in a new edition.
But Film still wouldn’t leave me alone. During my many visits with Rosset, he often lamented the loss of a key scene. The sequence comprised a legendary long-lost prologue. Upon my gentle prodding, he revealed that he did have a few rolls of film under his kitchen sink, but he was sure they were just scrap. You can guess the rest.
The footage was from the missing prologue—which I’ve reconstructed in strict accordance with Beckett’s original notes. And that was just the beginning. Looking at other outtakes, I found myself immersed in a dream world of what might have been and what really occurred as film stock ran through cinematographer Boris Kaufman’s camera in 1964. Notfilm is the result of those daydreams. Over the past seven years I’ve traveled across the world interviewing Beckett’s friends and collaborators. I’ve also had the great fortune to work with composer Mihály Víg, who’s created a score for Notfilm every bit as stunning as his music for the films of Béla Tarr. Notfilm asks, as Beckett did, what cinema can tell us of the human experience. It aspires, as Beckett did, to Joyce’s dictum that artworks should not be about things, but be things themselves.” — Ross Lipman, director of Notfilm