Proust on film


Peter Bradshaw on the cinematic outings of À La Recherche du Temps Perdu.

In the 1970s, it was the turn of Losey, who in a similar way had to drop his plans for the whole thing when funds dried up. But his À La Recherche du Temps Perdu (1972) is a great lost film, or ghost film, or imaginary film, because in 1978 Harold Pinter published the screenplay Losey commissioned from him, and it is fascinating to read this while attempting to “play” the movie in your head. The running time was estimated at just under four hours, which is about the reading time. Perhaps all directors should create an unproduced project like the Losey/Pinter Proust, a DIY film that viewers must conjure up for themselves.

Pinter’s Proust screenplay is a bold, radical compression or distillation: all the textual richness and amplitude is boiled away, and we are left with an audacious repatterning, a series of stark, fragmentary glimpses. It is a brilliant and very Pinteresque reading of Proust, with a real passion for the work. David Caute’s biography of Losey amusingly quotes one derisive non-backer: “This is the age of Gene Hackman and Barbra Streisand. There are no roles for them here.” Actually, given John Malkovich’s great success in Ruiz’s Time Regained as the cantankerous sensualist and snob Baron de Charlus, I’m not so sure; Hackman might have made a good, fussy Dr Cottard.