Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tim Page, boy filmmaker

As a boy under the spell of the silents, Tim Page made films with the neighborhood kids. From his memoir Parallel Play (Anchor Books, 2009):

I wrote detailed, surprisingly objective critiques of our films, some of them quite brutal. Here are my thoughts on The Affairs of Peter Lawcerse, which, I noted, had been “released” on November 13, 1966: “This is the stupid and unintelligible story of a man who has an affair with his mother and is finally shot by his best friend’s wife. Bad sets, bad acting, bad photography. . . .” But I liked most of The Immigrant: “From the beginning, everything works. All acting, except for Tim Page, is perfect. The film merits comparison with every film up to Opus 21 [which I made a year later] and nearly all after. It is short and to the point and can still move a sensitive viewer.”

And I mimicked a feature that has been running in Sunday newspapers for some fifty years now — the celebrity question-and-answer column called “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade.” There I addressed such deathless questions as “Is Betsy Page off the screen for good, now that her contract has expired?” (“She hasn’t renewed it,” I replied to myself tersely — we must have had a tiff.) I wrote capsule, breathlessly hyped biographies of all my players: “Dean Cook is probably the fastest growing star in the industry. His first picture was the recent The Fall of a Nation, in which he gave such a fine performance that his position with the finer actors was assured.” Or — my favorite — “Becca Brooks is Debby Brooks’s sister. She made her debut in the Anne Beddow film The Widow’s Villa. She was the perfect choice for the little girl, for she has that rare thing in kindergarteners — realism.”
That charming last sentence in particular makes me think of J. D. Salinger’s Seymour Glass.

The first edition of Parallel Play bore a subtitle — Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger’s — that helps explain what’s going on here. Parallel Play is a beautifully written memoir of a life with great deficits and great gifts.

In 1967, young Page’s filmmaking became the subject of a short documentary by David Hoffman, A Day with Filmmaker Timmy Page. You can read more about it and watch the trailer here. Let me also recommend Hoffman’s unrelated 2008 four-minute TED Talk.

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