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Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Author And Director Shows, But Doesn’t Tell

Michael Lindsay-Hogg photo by Lisa Ticknor.

By Robert Ayers

Many artists use ambiguity in their work, but the City of Hudson is about to gain a new resident whose whole life story is shot through with intrigue and uncertainty.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg (born 1940) is definitely not the son of Orson Welles. Or perhaps he is. His memoir. Luck and Circumstance (published a couple of years ago by Random House), manages to say both things. A lot of well-connected people — friends of Welles and Lindsay-Hogg’s mother Geraldine Fitzgerald, among them — say he is, and so do the New York Times and Wikipedia for that matter, but his mother always maintained that he was not. Perhaps we should have the courtesy to believe her.

In any case, there is an awful lot more about Michael Lindsay-Hogg to interest us. By the time he was 24 he was directing Ready Steady Go!, the weekly show that introduced pop music to British television viewers. Not much later he was making the Beatles’ first pop videos (before the term had even been invented) and shortly after that he directed their movie Let it Be, which traces the group’s gradual implosion. It is usually remembered best for the sequence when the Beatles play “Get Back!” on a London rooftop, which is probably among the most celebrated bits of pop music footage ever shot. It was Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s idea.

At around the same time he directed the legendary Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, which, apart from a uniquely revealing performance by the Stones, features The Who, Jethro Tull, Marianne Faithfull, and a supergroup fronted by John & Yoko and Eric Clapton. Though it was shot in London in 1968, the movie was not released until 1996 when it was shown at the New York Film Festival to great acclaim. Like many other things in Lindsay-Hogg’s life, the reasons for its long disappearance are still shrouded in mystery, but he admits it’s a movie that, “I still have a very soft spot for.”

“It has a poignancy to it,” he continues. “When you’re 28 you can’t imagine you’ll ever be 70, nor can you imagine that some of the participants in the movie will soon be dead — in Brian Jones’ case in only five months, in Keith Moon’s in less than ten years, and in John Lennon’s in twelve years — because everybody seemed so incredibly alive, and so in the moment. There wasn’t any future, there was just now.”

So now Lindsay-Hogg wants his new neighbors to see it. On Friday, August 8, he’ll be at Basilica Hudson not only showing the long-suppressed classic, but also (courtesy of The Spotty Dog Books and Ale) reading from Luck and Circumstance and answering questions. Quite how straightforward his answers will be remains to be seen, but he is a legendary raconteur and the evening genuinely makes the not-to-be-missed category. He has plenty to talk about: his directorial stage credits include Agnes of God on Broadway and the original production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart at Joe Papp’s Public Theatre. He also directed Running Mates with Diane Keaton and Ed Harris for HBO, and wrote and directed The Object of Beauty, which starred John Malkovich and Andie MacDowell.

Then the next day we get the chance to see a side of Michael Lindsay-Hogg that is far less celebrated when BCB ART (also in Hudson) opens his exhibition of paintings and drawings, You Game? I’m Game. Pictures have always had a special significance for Lindsay-Hogg, as he didn’t learn to read until he was nine he could only follow stories in the frames of comic books. He has drawn all his life, but it was only recently that his wife encouraged him to buy some canvases and paints “to see what would happen.” The results are as intriguing as anything else he’s ever made.

He doesn’t begin a picture with a clear idea in mind. “Images will change as I’m doing them,” he says, and “I like to be surprised.” Of one untitled painting he can only say that the ringmaster figure might have something to do with photographs of Mick Jagger in Rock and Roll Circus that he had nearby, and that the figure on the right looks rather like Mandrake the Magician whom he remembers from those old comic books. Other than that, he says, “What’s going on between these characters, I don’t know. I’m quite happy for the viewer to figure it out. Or to not figure it out, perhaps. It’s just as interesting for the viewer to say what it means as for me to say what it means.” 

A virtuoso of ambiguity indeed.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg film screening and reading
Friday, August 8 at 8 p.m., $10
Basilica Hudson, 110 S Front Street, Hudson, NY

You Game? I’m Game. art opening and reception
Saturday, August 9, 6-8 p.m.
BCB Art, 116 Warren Street, Hudson, NY

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/28/14 at 10:50 AM • Permalink