1 David Mackenzie
And the winner is . . . of course David Mackenzie. Like a bunch of Deep South inbreds. we here at The List like to stick to our own. and so it is and so it will always be. Long before 2003 and the release of his second feature film. Young Adam. Mackenzie was an occasional contributor to The List. living as he did in the hinterland of low budget filmmaking and hand to mouth contract jobs that just about kept the bailiffs from the door.
There was always something different about this stuttering. self-effacing young man from Corbridge. Well. two things actually. Firstly, many years ago he had acquired the rights to one of Alexander Trocchi's greatest. most dyspeptic beat novels. in the hope of one day turning (what many saw as a virtually unadaptable gutter trawl) into a film. Mackenzie's obsession was to turn into a crusade and then eventually a masterpiece but we will come to that later. And secondly, he had a good looking actor brother. Alistair Mackenzie. who. thanks to the popularity of the television series Monarch of the Glen. had become something of a sub—Colin Firthian phenomenon on the small screen. Mackenzie. it seemed, had the material and a ready made star (whom he did
30 THE LIST 1 1 Dec 2003—8 Jan 2004
not need to pay). Things. of course. did not work out that way — they rarely do. But first of all let‘s go way back to the scene of the crime.
For Mackenzie the road to gIOry began back in 1997 when he made his first short. California Sunshine. It was 20 minutes long and more full of bite than a mongoose in a snake pit. This tale of small time drug dealers who discover an unpleasant truth in the aftermath of an appalling weekend binge was a film debut of considerable distinction. Mackenzie. however. really came of age with his next short. Somersau/t (1999). a bittersweet tale of an embarrassing alcoholic mother and a wayward daughter. It is Somersault that holds the key to all that is brilliant about Young Adam: these 13 minutes can now be seen as something of a sketch. an outline upon which he was to draw heavily in 2002 when he came to start shooting the book of his beloved Trocchi. Another short. Mare/"s Dowry. followed in the same year and then came Mackenzie’s grande folie and probably the young man's steepest professional learning curve to date.
The Last Great Wilderness borders on both the inept and the referentially silly but it is never less than watchable. Something akin to Wit/mail and / meets Arsenic and Old Lace. the film was all
too clearly supposed to be a homage to filmmaker Michael Powell and. in particular. his 1937 film The Edge of the World. The film stars sibling Alistair as one of two marooned cons caught in the highlands and bylanes of a remote Scottish hotel estate. Mackenzie was given a heap of money from various funding organisations and a limited time schedule to complete this Wilderness and. if nothing. else it taught him the difference between loving the cinema of Michael Powell and trying to replicate it for a different age on limited funds.
Mackenzie had come a long way since 1997 and now the time seemed right to start work on his raison d'etre. YOung Adam. Mackenzie had already managed to attract the interest of Ewan McGregor. Peter Mullan. Tilda Swinton. Emily Mortimer and cinematographer Gilles Nuttgens. Why? Because his long gestated script for Young Adam was simply so good — controlled. disturbing and as nihilistic as its lead character Joe. Given the time and the money his talent so clearly deserved. Mackenzie finally delivered Young Adam to the world in 2003. and it was. put simply. a masterpiece. All the years Mackenzie had held onto his passion had in no way diminished his vision. Here was a film that easily deserves to be placed next to the
MACKENZIE IS NOW IN A POSITION TO CHOOSE THE FILMS HEiEWANTS T MAKE
works of another great Scot. Lindsay Anderson (director of Ill. and at a push. some of the work of Michael Powell himself.
Thanks to the high profile of his stars and the creditable box office Success of Young Ada/n. Mackenzie is now in a position to choose the films he wants to make. He is currently working on Asylum. a very dark romance based on the great book by Patrick McGrath. adapted for the screen by Patrick Marber. In the slower hours, when he has stopped for a moment talking to Natasha Richardson or Joss Ackland about their motivation. it is nice to think that perhaps this gliiet. shy man \‘VIH stop for a moment and contemplate how 2003 was the year that changed his and our worlds. (PD)
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