Nicolas Jack Roeg, CBE (15 August 1928 23 November 2018) was a British film director.
Starting in an entry-level position at a film studio, he gradually worked his way up to assistant camera operator, then camera operator (on films like The Sundowners and Lawrence of Arabia), then finally cinematographer (Fahrenheit 451, Far from the Madding Crowd, Petulia), before making his directorial debut (as co-director with Donald Cammell) with Performance.
Roeg had started working on prestige films but in the middle of the '60s, he worked on a number of British films with French New Wave inspired directors, chiefly John Schlesinger and Richard Lester, in addition to working on François Truffaut's only English-language film (Fahrenheit 451). Over the years he'd developed his own ideas about film being a unique medium, and the possibilities of using images, sounds and editing to tell stories in a new, provocative way. When it came time to apply those ideas as a director, the result was some of the most radical work ever released by mainstream studios, many of them experimental with narrative, and time, shooting sequences with flash-backs and flash-forwards intervowen together, and challenging a great many narrative and visual conventions.
As you'd expect from a former cinematogapher, Roeg's films are visually striking, but have so much going on they can be very disorienting; note how often Mind Screw gets mentioned in the pages for his films. To say his films are an acquired taste is an understatement, but once you get used to his odd style, it's easy to see his talent. His early films are frequently considered to be among the best of The '70s. His later career was much less consistent. He was a considerable influence on independent film-makers from The '70s and The '80s onwards, including Steven Soderbergh (his Out of Sight homaged the famous sex scene from Don't Look Now) as well as creators in other mediums such as Alan Moore.
He published The World is Ever Changing, a memoir as well as a collection of his thoughts on filmmaking, in 2014. Mick Jones was a huge fan and his Big Audio Dynamite hit "E=mc2" is an extended Shout-Out to Roeg's work.
Nicolas Roeg films with their own trope pages:
- Performance (1970—co-directed with Donald Cammell)
- Walkabout (1971)
- Don't Look Now (1973)
- The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
- Bad Timing (1980)
- The Witches (1990)
Tropes associated with him:
- Anachronic Order: One of his favorite techniques.
- Black Comedy: The humorous parts of his films lean heavily in this direction.
- Contrast Montage: One of the keystones of his style.
- Creator Couple: Roeg and Theresa Russell, who starred in six of his films and to whom he was married for a while.
- Creator Killer: He never totally recovered from Eureka, which sat on the shelf for a couple years, had a brief release with very little box office, and got mixed reviews. The film has some latter-day admirers, though, like Danny Boyle.
- Creator's Oddball: The Witches (1990), a family-friendly adaptation of a Roald Dahl novel.
- Executive Meddling: A frequent victim, with films ending up on The Shelf of Movie Languishment (Performance, Eureka) and films suffering Bad Export for You via edits to their American releases (Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth).
- Le Film Artistique: He frequently and unapologetically employs symbolism and esoteric references.
- Non-Actor Vehicle: Directed three of the most famous examples—Performance (Mick Jagger), The Man Who Fell to Earth (David Bowie) and Bad Timing (Art Garfunkel).
- Signature Style: Non-standard plots (often becoming a Random Events Plot or Kudzu Plot). Alternating between carefully composed shots and Montages. Frequent use of Flash Back and Flash Forward (visual and audio). Conspicuous use of edits and cuts (a typical film will use most of the entries from Cut to the Index). Frank depictions of sex and violence.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: Arguably one for Robert Altman. They both finally broke out as directors at the start of The '70s, when they were both well into middle age, after decades on the lower rungs of the film industry. They both had unconventional directorial styles that are immediately recognizable. Even though their styles are much different, they shared an interest in non-linear plotting and experimenting with the way sound is used in film.