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

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

This feature-length Oscar®-nominated documentary focuses on Malcolm Lowry, author of one of the major novels of the 20th century, Under the Volcano. But while Lowry fought a winning battle with words, he lost his battle with alcohol. Shot on location in four countries, the film combines photographs, readings by Richard Burton from the novel and interviews with the people who loved and hated Lowry, to create a vivid portrait of the man.

Cut from the same cloth as Malcolm Lowry, Donald understood the brotherhood of drunkards. As such, this was one of his favourite films.

The crew arrived in Mexico just before the Day of the Dead. Donald was comfortable working with a small crew. Cinematographer Douglas Kiefer shot a huge number of the extraordinary images without direction and Brittain knew how to bind them into a film.

Producer Robert Duncan did all the research, and John Kramer edited that film for months. On Sunday afternoons Don and John would get together and play chess with each other and debate; John became his surrogate son. It became very involved. There were a whole series of connections in that film, not just between Don and Malcolm but between Don and the crew. He was happy to share the directing credit on this one. He felt the universe had aligned itself properly; he was able to do something quite extraordinary.

There's also the whole bit about Richard Burton, another alcoholic, who he desperately wanted to narrate the film. He finally tracked him down in a hotel room in London and flew there to convince him to do it. And he succeeded.

Adam Symansky
From the playlist: Donald Brittain: Writer, filmmaker, storyteller.

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  • director
    Donald Brittain
    John Kramer
  • script
    Donald Brittain
    John Kramer
  • producer
    Donald Brittain
    Robert Duncan
  • executive producer
    James de B. Domville
  • photography
    Douglas Kiefer
  • animation camera
    Jacques Avoine
  • sound
    James McCarthy
  • editing
    John Kramer
  • sound editing
    Les Halman
    Abbey Jack Neidik
  • voice
    Richard Burton
  • narrator
    Donald Brittain
  • music
    Alain Clavier
  • re-recording
    Roger Lamoureux

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

    fantastic, atmospherically accurate film, much thanks for letting me watch it, J

    johnnybarcelona, 29 Aug 2012
  • waimeawilliams

    Thank you for making this excellent film available on the internet. I just watched the Houston film, which was good enough, but this documentary reawakened my interest in reading the book , first read about a decade ago and well remembered as a very fine work.

    waimeawilliams, 6 May 2010

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Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry , Donald Brittain & John Kramer, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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