A self-portrait of British film director Lindsay Anderson, IS THAT ALL THERE IS? provides a fascinating insight into this feisty, cantankerous old man's life and views, but disappointingly little analysis of the director's films.
The film opens with the 1956 Free Cinema Manifesto in which Anderson was a prime mover: "Perfection is not an aim." It then moves into a cinema verite style, following the everyday life of Anderson as he wakes up in his north London flat, with a copy of Brecht by his bed. Muddling around the flat
before taking a bath, he contemplates the posters of his films on the bathroom walls. Anderson then goes on a series of errands--to the dry cleaners, the supermarket, the wine store, the bookstore (to check on sales of his book About John Ford), his acupuncturist, and the hospital (for heart
tests). He is visited by a variety of friends and colleagues--most of whom he entertains in his kitchen serving tea and sticky currant buns--as they debate the state of culture and politics in Britain in the 1990s. These verite scenes, some of which appear highly scripted, are intercut with
television news footage. Although this intercutting no doubt springs from Anderson's strong critical views about the British class system, they seem at times to be heavy-handed. For example, images of starving Somalian children are set against those of supermarket shelves brimming with chickens;
and news coverage about the Queen's financial troubles contrast with Anderson's cleaning lady singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" while she washes the dishes. IS THAT ALL THERE IS? ends with a moving segment as Anderson hosts a boat party on the Thames--to scatter the ashes of two
friends, actresses Jill Bennett and Rachel Roberts--complete with a live pianist singing the song made so famous by Peggy Lee.
IS THAT ALL THERE IS? was made as a contribution to the BBC Scotland series of self-portraits entitled THE DIRECTOR'S PLACE. Although Anderson talks about television, theater, film criticism, and the film industry in general (including taking swipes at fellow British directors Michael Powell and
David Lean and expressing his admiration for his favorite director, John Ford), he never really talks about his own films. IF..., O LUCKY MAN!, and BRITANNIA HOSPITAL occupy a significant place in the history of British cinema for their unforgiving portrayals of the faulty British class system.
How fascinating it would have been to hear Anderson talk about this work, as well as his other films including THE WHALES OF AUGUST and THIS SPORTING LIFE. IS THAT ALL THERE IS? ends up being a sardonic tribute to the insignificance of one individual in the scheme of things, a tribute made more
poignant as Anderson died in 1994, just three weeks after the film was first broadcast on British television.(Profanity)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: A self-portrait of British film director Lindsay Anderson, IS THAT ALL THERE IS? provides a fascinating insight into this feisty, cantankerous old man's life and views, but disappointingly little analysis of the director's films. The film opens with the 1… (more)