Thursday, August 13, 2009


Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry

by John Kramer, Donald Brittain (1976, approx. 99 minutes)

This feature-length Oscar-nominated documentary focuses on Malcolm Lowry, author of one of the major novels of the 20th century, "Under the Volcano." Shot on location in four countries, this fascinating film combines photographs, readings by Richard Burton from the novel, and interviews with the people who loved and hated the man who won the battle with the novel but lost the fight with demons and drink.

And what he wanted then, ah then (he had turned right without looking at the sign and was following the path along the wire fence), what he wanted then, he thought, casting one yearning glance at the plains - and at this moment he could have sworn that a figure, the details of whose dress he did not have time to make out before it departed, but apparently in some kind of mourning, had been standing, head bowed in deepest anguish, near the centre of the public garden - what you want then, Geoffrey Firmin, if only as an anecdote against such routine hallucinations, is, why it is, nothing less than to drink; to drink, indeed, all day, just as the clouds once more bid you, and yet not quite; again it is more subtle than this; you do not wish merely to drink, but to drink in a particular place in a particular town.

--from Under the Volcano


Jim Woodring said...

Thanks for posting this, Bob. Every time I read or see anything by or about Malcolm Lowry I am reminded of my own pet demon, better-behaved and less voracious than his but a brother in every way. The lure of mystical alcoholic destruction is profound, and has often felt to me to be one of the very few rational responses to this glorious nightmare we inhabit. There is much in such a life to deplore, but also much to savor and exalt in, spiritually and educationally speaking.

Bob Rini said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Jim. Your insight is always appreciated here at the Hammer. Lowry had such talent but obviously struggled all his life--especially toward the end--with alcoholism and his own personal demons. Sometimes self-medication seems to ease the pain of being alive but conversely it also dulls the joy of being alive. There is a bittersweet irony here--by trying to numb ourselves from the depression we also destroy the hope of getting beyond it. Of course, this is rational and human beings are rarely rational.