I’m a huge fan of the late underrated director Lindsay Anderson, best known for his remarkable trilogy if…, O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital (the first two are masterpieces and unavailable on DVD, a telling sign that the DVD format is inefficient at rectifying the gaping holes in film history, preferring such solid holiday sellers as Full House: The Complete Fifth Season). Lindsay Anderson, perhaps unable to get work in the 1980s, was reduced to helming puff pieces like Wham! In China: Foreign Skies. What I didn’t know was that, earlier this year, an archive of Anderson’s papers revealed the great director’s true intentions. Apparently, Anderson made a documentary showing the clash of Wham’s management with Chinese bureaucracy, hoping to show how Western values had an effect on China. Of the film, Anderson noted that it was made under “arbitrary orders from George Michael, who doesn’t know what he’s talking about …a young millionaire with an inflated ego. I was struck by his total disinterest in China. His vision only extends to the top 10.”
I wonder if Anderson was inspired enough by Jean-Luc Godard’s fascinating 1968 documentary, Sympathy for the Devil, which juxtaposed the Rolling Stones against a study of the revolutionary in Western culture, to make a similar film involving Wham.
[UPDATE: More information from the University of Stirling: “At the start of 1985 he had just returned from Washington DC where he had directed a troubled production of Hamlet which was plagued with problems and closed after a short run…..In a letter to a friend written in January 1986 he explained that he undertook the Wham! project ‘in a spirit of curiosity. Curiosity about China and curiosity about the odd confrontation of China and Wham! – and even a certain curiosity, not very great, about the phenomenon of Wham! itself.'” Also of interest: Anderson’s letter to the crew after Wham pulled him from the project. George Michael and Sony Music hold the rights to Anderson’s version and have prevented it from being seen.]
[UPDATE 2: Amazingly, someone has collected the whole of if.. on YouTube: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight (this segment has a corporal punishment long take with incredible blocking), Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven and Part Twelve.]