Samuel Beckett is without doubt one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Renowned for his bleak outlook on human existence, his greatest legacy is Waiting for Godot. A champion of the absurd, the Nobel Prize winner left his mark on both the English and French languages. However, Beckett only ventured into filmmaking once. FILM, an avant-garde short featuring O (Buster Keaton) as an unknown man trying to evade the gaze of I (the camera).

Beckett assembled a team comprising director Alan Schneider, publisher Barney Rosset, and Oscar-winning cinematographer Boris Kaufman to bring Film to reality. It was mired in production issues, with entire sequences ending up on the cutting room floor. Overnight, Beckett was forced to change the entire focus of his work. NOTFILM is a feature-length kino-essay by filmmaker Ross Lipman about the personal and cinematic history surrounding the production.

The FILM NOTFILM bundle released by the BFI is a fascinating insight into the personalities involved, the filmmaking process and the legacy of FILM. Lipman uses interviews from Beckett collaborator Billie Whitelaw, cinematographer Haskell Wexler and Rossett, interspersed with clips from films by Buñuel, Vigo and Eisenstein, to illustrate his points. The package itself is greater than the sum of its parts, It’s an important work of film history and an absorbing glimpse into the mind of a visionary.

Extras:

• The Street Scene (6 mins): A Lost Scene Reconstruction from the Film Outtakes

• The Dog and Cat takes (9mins): outakes from the 1965 version of Film

• “What if E’s Eyes Were Closed?” (7 mins): Audio Recordings of Beckett, Kaufman and Schneider (7 mins, with English captioning)

• Buster Keaton and Film: James Karen in Conversation (42 mins)

• Memories of Samuel Beckett: An Afternoon with James Knowlson (8 mins)

• Jeanette Seaver: Beckett and Godot (4 mins)

• Stills and photo Gallery (TBC mins)

• Photographing Beckett (7 mins)

• The Music of NOTFILM: Downloadable MP3 Recordings by Mihály Víg (DVD only)

FILM NOTFILM is released on Dual Format Blu-Ray and DVD by the BFI on Monday 22 May.