Nicholas Mosley and Films for Not Acting

Nicholas Mosley and Films for Not Acting Abstract The experimental novelist Nicholas Mosley (1923–2017) was briefly involved in film. This began with Accident (Losey), adapted from his novel by Harold Pinter, and was followed by his own screenplays for The Assassination of Trotsky (Losey) and Impossible Object (Frankenheimer). Mosley was often at odds with his collaborators—he was thrown off the latter projects, and essentially novelized Trotsky in retaliation. But writing for actors had a lasting impact on Mosley; it sparked an interest in performance that echoed through his work for decades, beginning with the ‘Plays for Not Acting’ in Catastrophe Practice (1979). The Assassination of Trotsky and Impossible Object, both beguiling films, can be appreciated as the first, abortive attempts at Mosley’s ‘not acting’ (largely developed out of an interest in Brecht). Mosley’s Catastrophe Practice plays can be seen as an extension or corrective of what he attempted in film. I examine the ways these films prefigured and refined Mosley’s approach to performance and consider the Mosley films in terms of trends in continental cinema: the co-development of the New Wave and the New Novel, and the marked influence of Brecht on contemporary filmmakers and film theory. Mosley’s brief intervention highlights a particular British aversion to both. The experimental novelist Nicholas Mosley (1923–2017) was briefly involved in film. This began with Accident (Joseph Losey), adapted from his novel by Harold Pinter, and was followed by his own screenplays for The Assassination of Trotsky (Losey) and Impossible Object (John Frankenheimer). Mosley was often at odds with his collaborators—he was thrown off the latter projects, and essentially novelized Trotsky in retaliation. But writing for actors had a lasting impact on Mosley; it sparked an interest in performance that echoed through his work for decades, beginning with the ‘Plays for Not Acting’ in Catastrophe Practice (1979). The Assassination of Trotsky and Impossible Object, both beguiling films, can be appreciated as the first, abortive attempts at Mosley’s ‘not acting’ (largely developed out of an interest in Brecht). Mosley’s Catastrophe Practice plays can be seen as an extension or corrective of what he attempted in film. I examine the ways these films prefigured and refined Mosley’s approach to performance and consider the Mosley films in terms of trends in continental cinema: the co-development of the New Wave and the New Novel, and the marked influence of Brecht on contemporary filmmakers and film theory. Mosley’s brief intervention highlights a particular British aversion to both. Going strictly by his previous novels, Catastrophe Practice seems a strange departure. Despite the shift to more fractured structures with Accident (1965), Catastrophe Practice is a ‘novel’ in name only, consisting of plays, essays, and short fiction. In ‘Skylight’, the introduction, Mosley sheds some light on this; he has come to see theatre and acting as the ideal means to both understand ourselves and to prepare for social and biological change. He says the plays are informed by catastrophe theory—where otherwise stable states are altered in a sudden jumps (the so-called ‘catastrophes’).1 In performance and spectatorship we could prepare, ‘practice’, for them. For Mosley, we learn through awareness of our own acting, the acting of others, and in being perceived. He says Brecht understood this (Artaud and Beckett did not). Mosley includes an interpretation of Brecht’s estrangement effect; he wants the reader not just aware of his words, but aware of the depicted performance. What is spoken is (perhaps) of no importance. That they are ‘Plays for Not Acting’ has a number of implications. They appear to resist performance; the plays seem to be being performed within the text itself. Named actors are assigned to the roles in each play (and in Cypher, the novella). As per the stage directions, actors alternate between naturalism, ‘theatrical’ performance, and ‘not acting at all’ (94). They communicate this self-awareness, (not) acting, and, vitally, its performance before an audience. In a postscript following the plays, Mosley says that it would be ‘unusual’ to have them performed (227) and admits there was already a misfire along these lines. He says he wrote a screenplay in the style of the plays; while ‘there had been interest in the ideas’, as to ‘what is acting and what is not’ (229), the production backed down from what the script required. As Mosley later recalled: ‘I became obsessed with the way actors or scriptwriters couldn’t or wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do’ (Flannagan and Mosley 91). The plays in Catastrophe Practice are an execution of his ideas where they could not be sabotaged; in the confines of the scripts, he could dictate every moment. In ways, Mosley was a novelist struggling in an interpretive, collaborative medium; his customary control did not extend to the film set. Catastrophe Practice sought to correct that. While he points to his experience adapting his novel Impossible Object (1969) as the impetus for writing the plays, they in many ways have their origin in the Pinter-Losey adaptation of Accident. ACCIDENT Nicholas Mosley, 3rd Baron Ravensdale, 7th Baronet, was the eldest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, a Conservative (then Labour) MP who founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Despite their fraught relationship—Mosley renounced his father’s politics (Grimes) —Oswald chose Nicholas to be his official biographer. The resulting two-part memoirs—Rules of the Game (1982) and Beyond the Pale (1983)—are among Mosley’s best; both a lucid account of his parents’ lives and a personal reflection of his childhood. Notably both he and his father were amateur filmmakers. Mosley says his father wrote, directed, and shot a film ‘in a rather German-expressionist style, with reflections in water of poplar trees and clouds moving’ (102). The surviving reel features some of Oswald’s coterie circa 1927: his first wife Lady Cynthia, Labour MP John Strachey, landscape artist Richard Wyndham, as well as Bright Young Things Stephen Tennant and photographer Cecil Beaton (in drag). Mosley directed several short films in the 40s and 50s. Like his father, Mosley shot his 16 mm films with friends and family. Filmmaker John Banks includes clips from The Policeman’s Mother (1949) in his Mosley documentary Nicholas Mosley: Writing Life (2001); he finds the film reminiscent of Chaplin and Buñuel ‘interweaving sentimentality and perversity’. For Mosley, it concerned ‘the frustrated Oedipal yearnings’ of authority (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 20). Mosley made an ‘even more indecorous’ follow-up in The Grave-digger’s Mother (1955)—he claims they were almost arrested for acting ‘unseemly’ in a cemetery (75). After this Mosley not only stopped making films, but briefly gave up writing, having grown disillusioned with that he called his ‘wordy, rhapsodic style’ and ‘terrible Dickens characters’ one was supposed to ‘condescend to’ (Nicholas Mosley). By the time he re-emerged with Accident, Mosley had shorn the ‘Angry Young Man’ of his early novels (Grimes), replaced with the cut-up, prismatic characters and narratives that would remain in his work for decades. The novel is narrated by Stephen, an Oxford don. He is enamored with his student Anna, as are others at the college; she has an affair with Charlie (one of Stephen’s colleagues) and is later engaged to William (another of his students). One night Anna and William are in a car accident near Stephen’s home. He investigates. William is dead. He pulls Anna from the wreckage. She somehow evades detection when the police interview Stephen. The next morning, Stephen summons Charlie, and the two discuss what to do with her. She was likely driving (without a license)—to report her would derail her life; to conceal her puts their own careers at risk. They decide to remain silent (or perjure themselves). The film was the second collaboration between Losey and Pinter, following the success of The Servant (1963).2 Horizon Pictures first suggested the novel to Losey; Pinter completed his first draft by July 1965. However, they soon fell out with Horizon boss Sam Spiegel over casting and Pinter’s elliptical script, forcing them to buy the rights for themselves (Caute). In May 1966, Pinter sent Mosley a draft of the screenplay with a letter explaining his adaptation (and ‘deviation’) from the novel: while Pinter mostly keeps to the plot, he has Stephen rape Anna the night of the accident. This, and Anna’s role in William’s death, is then kept from Charlie. Pinter said he needed Stephen and Anna in ‘final complicity’. He discussed this with Billington: Firstly, the sexual encounter, the rape, as you say, which it more or less is. I just felt it was a logical progression from two points of view. One is the emotion which is unleashed in the light of the accident; and the second in relation to power. I felt that Dirk Bogarde, Stephen, chose to exercise the power which he actually possessed at that moment. [...] The second scene about the discussion of the perjury seemed to me much too discursive and I thought it had no place; it was much too self-conscious. (70) Mosley was equivocal in response. He clearly wanted the film made—he was relieved that their problems with Horizon had been sorted out, and was moreover ‘flattered’ by the Pinter-Losey attention (Flannagan and Mosley 90). He cycles between praising Pinter—‘I feel it might be important—the first time some of this stuff has been done in a British film’—and trying to dissuade him against the rape scene: It seems to me (or a man like Stephen) difficult enough to make love to a 20-year-old girl for the first time in any conditions, but when she’s drunk or with a hangover and semi-concussed; and when it’s 5 a.m. and the man’s got quite a few worries on his mind—then it’s almost impossible, I mean in the sense that however much one wanted it one’s heart would just fail, or if not one’s heart, the other thing. He adds that ‘conventional morality’ at Oxford would likely deter a man like Stephen ‘through fear if not ethics’. Mosley was not alone in questioning the change. His concern was shared by Bogarde: ‘I resisted it as far as I could but [Losey] wanted it desperately badly [...] It was bestial and I think Joe wanted that crudity’ (Caute 185). Losey’s production notes to the actors confirm this; he wanted Stephen to humiliate and subdue Anna fully aware of his hypocrisy (184). The rape alters everything—for obvious reasons—the film is even structured around its climactic reveal. This (‘commentary on’) misogyny is reflected elsewhere: Pinter elides nearly all of Anna’s dialogue from the novel. The film opens with a few scenes of Anna (Jacqueline Sassard) concussed and in shock, before flashing back to her silent in tutorials. On first viewing it is unclear if hers is a speaking role at all. For Kernan, the role required Sassard to be a ‘receptacle for the fantasies and projections of the three men around her’ (61). Mosley’s Stephen says something similar of Anna: ‘We were fascinated because of that nothingness about her so that we could put anything we liked onto her’ (47). Before sending him the draft, Pinter had asked Mosley if Anna was a ‘victim’ or a ‘bitch’; they agreed she should be both (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 164). While Mosley considered the rape ‘a false note’ (Caute 185), he was in the end more pained by Pinter’s isolation of Charlie and removing the ‘perjury’ discussion between he and Stephen. Despite telling Pinter that he saw ‘the point of its [removal] being better dramatically’, Mosley considered this communication between the characters to be ‘the whole point of the book’: [W]hen something traumatic happens, either you can talk or you can’t, and I think you can. But, of course, Stephen and Charlie didn’t settle what they should do. They settled to face everything and see what happened. They accepted what happened. They would give truthful answers. Pinter wouldn’t or couldn’t do it. And so the film just ended with the two male characters unable to speak. (Flannagan and Mosley 90) For Mosley, ‘Pinter wouldn’t really do any of this—his specialty being noncommunication’ (O’Brien and Mosley 64). Notably, his criticism of Pinter crops up in the ‘Skylight’ essay in Catastrophe Practice. Before turning to Brecht, Mosley dismisses the pervasive determinism and nihilism he saw in contemporary theatre. He does not mention Pinter by name, but describes certain playwrights’ inability or refusal to ‘communicate’: There has been a Theatre of Cruelty3—by which audiences are supposed to be bludgeoned into an increased insensitivity: a Theatre of the Absurd4—in which what is communicated often beautifully (and thus comfortingly) is that people cannot communicate. In all this there is an impression that these playwrights know much more than they say: by their craft they presuppose the existence of order and meaning, yet their plays state nothing of that of which this order and meaning consist. The art of their productions, that is, belies their pretensions of meaninglessness. (8) Further, in his autobiography, Mosley transitions sharply from discussing his problems with Pinter’s screenplay to quoting an article he wrote in Theology a few years earlier. It also concerned the fashionable pessimism then considered mark of a serious writer; where the individual ‘is an automaton’ without ‘freedom nor responsibility’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 270; Mosley “The Contemporary Novel”). Mosley is coy but the implication is clear: Pinter’s screenplay made Accident close to the very thing he wanted to avoid. Despite whatever foundation Brecht and maths were for Catastrophe Practice, Pinter’s negative influence was still on his mind. Mosley saw his career in two distinct phases; early, autobiographical novels, and his later work primarily concerned with ‘patterns’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 2); Accident is the turning point. Thus, many of his concerns in Catastrophe Practice have their root in his 1965 novel (their similar titles are no ‘accident’). In both, the trauma of catastrophe provides a channel for clarity and truth (Flannagan and Mosley). Catastrophe Practice imagines how the patterns of the mind could be suddenly transformed; Accident studies how these events can spark ‘discontinuities’ in human behavior and relationships (Chevaillier 247). For Mosley, the characters in Accident ‘are nearly always acting’, only to stop ‘at moments of crisis or intensity, when you have to make a choice’ (240). In this Chevaillier finds the characters attempt to reconstruct themselves in crisis. Yet the key shift between Accident and Catastrophe Practice is the function Mosley assigns to characters’ ‘acting’. In Accident, acting was the thing to overcome—catastrophe allows one to break out of roleplaying. In Catastrophe Practice, acting has become the method; performance and spectatorship are the means to enact change. There is nothing of this in the film; with Pinter excising Mosley’s discussion and response to the accident, his catastrophe only serves to get Anna raped. While Mosley and Losey both considered the accident a ‘catalyst’, they meant strikingly different things by it. For Mosley, the accident is ‘a catalyst in the sense that people can carry on with difficult, tormented relationships, keep them spinning, until something violent or disastrous happens which makes them think about their responsibilities’ (Grigs 7). Losey calls the accident ‘a catalyst, as the girl was a catalyst’ (Losey and Milne 18). He later expanded on this: The important thing was what was happening to the man, and the girl was just a catalyst, too. This is the reason why that poor unfortunate girl, Jacqueline Sassard, was quite unhappy on the picture, because she had these eyes which were windows, which you could look through, but she never is more than an instrument.5 She’s simply a catalyst for all the other things. That’s why she goes away, and when she does it all falls back. The only difference is that she’s left a dead man. (Ciment and Losey 264–5) Mosley’s Accident allows a man to be drawn out of self-absorption; Pinter and Losey’s draws him further in. Mosley allows one to change; for Losey it ‘all falls back’. Despite keeping superficially to the plot, in changing the ending the film evinces little interest in Mosley’s concerns, in particular his nascent preoccupation with performance and catastrophe. These would continue to be frustrated in his subsequent collaborations with Losey. THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY Still Mosley considered Accident ‘a good Pinter film’ and ‘was only too glad to have the big deal Pinter/Losey adaptation of my book’ (Flannagan and Mosley 90) and, one imagines, the notoriety it provided. Mosley also got along with Losey and had a brief cameo in the film.6 Around this time Mosley was finishing Impossible Object, a novel that retained Accident’s splintered narrative, collapsing the memories and fantasies of its protagonist into eight loosely connected (if irreconcilable) segments. Shortlisted for the inaugural Booker Prize, Impossible Object greatly impressed Losey. He encouraged Mosley to adapt it into a screenplay: I’d like nothing better than to be part of such an undertaking, excepting I wonder what film can do in any way to extend or supplement what you have already written down? [...] [A] film of this book would require the discovery of the visual, impossible fourth dimension. But that’s what we’ve been trying to do. (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 209). Mosley worked on the script over the next year and a half, resulting in what the director considered ‘an extraordinary extension of what I have tried to do in film’ (228). Although Catherine Deneuve and Bogarde were initially attached, Losey and his people had difficulty finding the money for it. While Losey had little luck with his financiers, Mosley soon had problems of his own. Following Accident and his metafictional script for Losey, Mosley was himself in a serious accident, shattering most of the bones down his right side. It is during this time, recuperating from the crash, when Mosley became more heavily concerned with performance (after chancing upon a Kleist play on the radio). In Kleist and later Brecht, Mosley saw the potential to visualize the ‘paradox of self-reflexivity’ (Rahbaran 123), a main concern of Impossible Object. Mosley was soon given a new project where he could develop this: Losey wanted a new script for The Assassination of Trotsky. He was dissatisfied with the earlier jargon-laden attempts by his fellow Stalinist Ian Hunter (Ciment and Losey; Flannagan and Mosley). As he considered Mosley ‘the most antipolitical writer’ he knew, Losey figured he could strike a workable balance between the drama and politics (Flannagan and Mosley 91).7 As Trotsky had funding, they put their Impossible Object on hold. While Accident prefigures aspects of Catastrophe Practice, Mosley began to write conscious of Brechtian techniques8 as he worked on Trotsky. He says he discussed his ideas of ‘not acting’ with Losey and the actors; Mosley insisted that his script required them to convey a ‘detachedness’ from the roles they played (Rahbaran 127). As well, Mosley built discordant ‘flashes’ into the screenplay; while the main story would be set in Mexico where Trotsky lived in exile, these scenes would convey Trotsky’s political and military life. Mosley was told that they would ‘be shot in grainy black-and-white as if they were contemporary newsreels’ (Rahbaran and Mosley 47). He intended these to compound the detached performance of the actor playing Trotsky; the ‘non-acting’ element of the role involved the character’s ambivalence towards his imminent death alongside his preoccupation with the ‘grim activity’ of his years with Lenin (ibid.). The reviews for Trotsky were poor; most singled out the performances given by lead actors Burton, who played Trotsky (‘with spectacles and chin whiskers and Welsh accent’) and Alain Delon (‘writhing with symptoms of haute-psychopathia behind dark glasses and blank expressions’) as Jacson, the trench-coated assassin (Medved and Dreyfuss 32). Others were nonplussed by a film concerned with a death with no interest in the life that defined it (Bennett; Malcolm). ‘Trotsky was an extremely public figure’ wrote Richard Schickel. ‘Given the vast amount we know about him, it is inexcusable to present him [...] mouthing platitudes’ (Medved and Dreyfuss 31–2). Mosley hated the film as well. He blamed it on Losey cutting out his ‘flashes’ (which would have dealt with Trotsky’s political life) and on the actors. Without the ‘flashes’, he felt the film had a ‘ghost-like quality; it was if as if none of the characters quite knew what on earth they were there for’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 239). As to Burton, Delon et al., Mosley found something off about the way actors spoke my lines—or perhaps they were bad lines. Anyway, the actors seemed to be trying to make them ‘sincere’ [...] what these actors seemed to be failing to do was to act this interplay between sincerity and failure. Was this something that actors could not do? Or was it my responsibility for not having made something of this more clear? (ibid.) The performances are something to behold; Delon’s scenes with Romy Schneider (a romance on- and off-screen) in particular. She plays Gita, who works for Trotsky. Jacson uses her to gain access to Trotsky’s fortified home—in all likelihood their relationship is a pretense. This dynamic is presented in a number of unbalanced, inexplicable exchanges. A memorable scene is in their bedroom: Jacson is on the bed, catatonic. He then lights a cigarette, she smashes a mug, they talk vaguely about Trotsky, she asks why he spells his name without a ‘k’; he then thrusts his fingers between her legs, asking, ‘You really want to talk?’ The scene is no aberration; Trotsky is littered with them. Yet it is unclear what the relationship is between Mosley’s script and the performances given.9 Are they intentionally strange; attempts (however successful) at the detached performances Mosley wanted? Or are they as Mosley saw it; the actors trying to impose naturalism on a script that oscillates between ‘sincerity and failure’? A few commentators—making no reference to Mosley’s intentions—have interpreted the performances in Trotsky to be attempts at estrangement. Mraz calls Jacson ‘a truly Brechtian creation’, a figure that ‘pushes away any sort of identification or empathy’ (10). For him, Delon sought to ‘distance [Jacson] from both the audience as well as the other characters’ (ibid.). Hirsch sees Burton’s Trotsky in a similar light and argues that Burton’s celebrity adds to the construction: Drained of primary vocal and emotional coloring, his interpretation is indeed Brechtian. Burton makes no attempt to sound like anyone other than himself, in self-conscious low gear: there is no effort at vocal imitation, there is no trace of a Russian accent, although Burton is made up in beard and pince-nez, to at least suggest visual echoes of the real-life Trotsky. [...] Burton is playing Trotsky in a detached and minimalist way, in a cool style designed to frustrate audience sympathy. (192–3) Hirsch believes casting Burton was to deliberately aid in this frustration—although Losey elsewhere makes clear that Bogarde was his first choice (de Rham; Ciment and Losey). In his career-spanning reflections with Ciment, which include a discussion of his friendship and collaborations with Brecht, Losey does not mention the ‘detachment’ of Mosley’s screenplay nor make any reference to Brecht or estrangement in the Trotsky performances. In regard to Burton, Losey says his performance was in part impaired by the struggles with alcohol; ‘he had all the withdrawal symptoms: he couldn’t remember lines, he had very little inspiration, he was dry and difficult and not good’ (325). Burton (in his diaries) makes similar accusations of Losey: ‘Joe is definitely not himself. He doesn’t seem to know the script as well as he usually does. Time and time again I, or the continuity girl, have to remind him of things that are very obvious. [...] Joe asked me why I was pausing. I told him why. Oh really let me look at the script. Yes, you’re quite right. Yes. Very Odd’ (504). Burton was not aware of any method in the performances nor Losey’s directing: I don’t know whether Joe is ill or regards this piece as a failure before it starts or has simply run out of gas, but he is passing performances in this film which an amateur director of the annual church pageant would turn down with a shudder. [...] It is bad enough with Valentina Cortese10 who is a good enough actress but acts in clichés and because of her discomfort with the language makes the quoted banalities she is forced to utter even more banal. I am beginning to wonder if the stuff they shot in Mexico with Delon and Schneider is equally bad. (499) Perhaps in every bad performance is a clandestine touch of Brecht. Whether the acting and direction were clueless or they disregarded Mosley’s intentions, vestiges of Brecht (however Mosleyan) remain in the film. First, Losey would have been amenable to a ‘Brechtian’ Trotsky; while Mosley came to Trotsky with a dilettante’s fervor, Losey was a former associate and long-time follower. He co-directed with Brecht the second (‘American’) version of Life of Galileo in 1947, and two years after Trotsky, adapted the play for American Film Theatre. For Gardner, there is ‘a mistaken tendency to see Losey as a purely Brechtian disciple’, but he believes the use of gestus and estrangement ‘play an important part in any analysis of Losey’s films’ (212). Thus alongside Mosley’s script—or irrespective of it—the performances Losey coaxed out of the actors may well reflect Brechtian elements Mosley envisaged for the film. Mosley’s call for a film and performances to push the boundaries of sincerity is reminiscent of La truite (1982). One of Losey’s last films, it follows a French trout farmer who finds herself in Tokyo nightclubs. A scattershot of naturalism with perplexing digressions (and overlong dance sequences), La truite is more clearly an exercise in estrangement than Trotsky, where perhaps Losey and the actors were lost in the aspects of a conventional drama lingering in Mosley’s script.11 Mosley first saw Trotsky at a private screening in Paris. His subsequent row with Losey about the cut flashes was serious enough for the latter to lose interest in directing Impossible Object. Mosley then rapidly set about adapting his Trotsky screenplay into a book. Losey was livid when he learned Josef Shaftel, the producer of the film, granted Mosley permission to do it (Caute). It sparked another blistering exchange between the two, with Losey, among other things, claiming someone of Mosley’s pedigree had no right to be writing about Trotsky (forgetting who had brought on Mosley in the first place). Mosley went ahead with his adaptation and it was published the same year as the film. His The Assassination of Trotsky is not an unabridged screenplay or a typical novelization, but rather a book of criticism that considers Trotsky’s death in relation to his life, politics, and writing on dialectics. Accordingly, it has been cited in sociological studies of Trotsky and political killings (Power and Ram; Sachar). For Mosley, it was less of a biography than ‘an effort at interpretation’; he adapted the historical ‘flashes’ Losey had removed into sections ‘which try to say who Trotsky was and what he had done and what he believed in’ (17). These alternate with journalistic accounts of the assassination attempts in Mexico. Without the former, Mosley argues Trotsky’s ‘personal drama has no meaning’ (ibid.). While an obvious slight to Losey, Mosley makes no mention of the film in the text.12 He makes no explicit reference to Brecht and his ‘not acting’, either. He does, however, discuss elements of roleplaying in both Trotsky and the assassin. While Jacson was incapable of reconciling the personas he had devised, the ‘dialectical’ Trotsky could successfully be both a ‘man of reflection’ and ‘man of action’ (176). Mosley may have well seen parallels in the ‘dialectical’ concerns of contemporary Marxists in Brecht and Trotsky or in their aesthetics.13 He closes the book emphasizing Trotsky’s notion that politicians should ‘learn from the nature of artistic activity’ (180), echoing the deconstructive ‘flashes’ of political art within the film.14 As an adaptation and extended exegesis of his screenplay, the book was Mosley’s first aesthetic salvo against Losey, actors, and interpretation of his scripts. IMPOSSIBLE OBJECT Mosley had lost a director for Impossible Object, yet out of prerelease hype for Trotsky there was still interest in the script. Impossible Object was eventually shown to Hollywood director John Frankenheimer, who was living in Paris at the time. In his quasi-exile Frankenheimer wanted to make a European art house film; Mosley’s agent sold him on the supposed ‘art-movie script to end all art-movie scripts’ (Rahbaran and Mosley 48). When Frankenheimer met with Mosley, he had him explain why the film ‘seemed to almost but not quite to fit together’ and its elliptical ‘flashes’ that blurred the narrative (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 241). Mosley made his case for the script and his ‘not acting’. As with Trotsky, the film’s success would hinge on the depiction of ‘not acting’ in order to give an ‘impression of being in touch with some reality’ of the patterns of our lives (242). Frankenheimer said he understood and took on the project. Mosley began revising the script in 1972. Yet as their work progressed he felt ‘the same things going wrong’ as they had on Trotsky. His relationship with Frankenheimer soured; Mosley was eventually fired and replaced (he shares writing credit with Eric Kahane on the film). Frankenheimer was never entirely comfortable with a screenplay drained of affect; a series of ‘memories, premonitions, and resonances’ where events ‘inside and outside the mind’ were not easily separated (243). Harry (Alan Bates), a writer, experiences overlapping and conflicting storylines; those with his wife Elizabeth (Evans Evans) and others with his mistress Natalie (Dominique Sanda). He struggles to keep the lives apart and is disoriented when events in one trigger memories of the other (via Mosley’s beloved ‘flashes’). In these moments, Harry seems to briefly break from his current persona. Throughout, Harry’s thoughts drift towards what becomes the climax of the film: a boating accident and the death of his child with Natalie. Natalie’s life away from Harry feels like a different film; a sparse, French15 drama with her husband Georges (Michel Auclair). As everything on screen is driven by Harry’s state of mind, it is never clear how much of her life is a fabrication or not. These scenes of clipped dialog and pallid performances are at odds with Harry’s manic shifts in persona. The titular ‘impossible object’ refers to both the irreconcilable narrative and these shifts, leaving Harry (and the viewer) to contemplate the extent to which they have contrived their own roles. Despite Mosley’s disappointment (he considered removing his name from the film), Impossible Object nonetheless presents characters, as described in Catastrophe Practice, that are not ‘recognisably simple and all-of-a-piece’; that are both ‘tormented and yet succeeding’ (229). The corollary of this is a (Brechtian) lack of identification; Impossible Object is never wholly invested in any emotional payoff for its audience. The death of the child at the end, in particular, is almost treated with contempt—after showing the lovers despondent on a beach, the film ends with smiling platitudes over drinks. For Mosher, Frankenheimer wanted it both ways: Mosley’s distancing script (and its lack of affect) while somehow ‘delivering the emotional power of a Hollywood melodrama’ (209). Composer Michel Legrand adds to the muddle. His score tries its best to communicate that this is a typical romantic film, providing a saccharine gloss to the ambivalent, half-hearted experimentation. Frankenheimer later said were he to re-edit the film he would cut out Mosley’s flashes to present a less complicated love story (Pratley 128). The film—‘quasi-Losey, quasi-Fellini’ (Combs 51) and/or ‘suave boredom’ (Reed D1)—screened out-of-competition at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, above Frankenheimer’s objections (he was still editing the film). It was shown late in the festival and received little coverage (Frankenheimer and Champlin). Soon after, the film’s production company went bankrupt; the film never received commercial distribution. Frankenheimer stole a print and entered it himself into the 1974 Atlanta Film Festival, where it won best picture, a best screenplay award for Mosley, and best score for Legrand (Engle and Frankenheimer; ‘Industry Activities’). The film eventually surfaced on VHS as Story of a Love Story. Mosley says it would occasionally crop up on late night television: ‘I watch it with embarrassment, and some fascination’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 246–7). CATASTROPHE PRACTICE Mosley found Frankenheimer ignored his vision while Bates and the others acted once again in ‘the old conventional style’ (Rahbaran and Mosley 48). Mosley wanted actors to perceptively doubt his script on screen.16 He complained that the actors still seemed to be either ‘joking or sincere’, and he had wanted them ‘to find, or create, what sincerity or non-sincerity might be’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 247). After seeing his second screenplay fail to be performed with a knowing detachment he sought to write plays that would unequivocally capture his approach. These appear in Catastrophe Practice (1979) and Serpent (1981), and are referenced in the other books in the Catastrophe Practice series—Imago Bird (1980), Judith (1986) and Hopeful Monsters (1990).17 The series, which follows the lives of seven loosely connected individuals in art, politics, and science, often alludes to Mosley’s work in film—the debacle over Pinter’s Accident screenplay is referenced in Judith18 while Imago Bird is swarming with Trotskyites. Mosley’s rows with Losey and Frankenheimer inspired much of Serpent, where a screenwriter makes a futile case for his ‘not acting’ script about Masada. Self-references aside, the Catastrophe Practice plays, essays, and novels, like the earlier screenplays, are experiments toward a new theory of performance. Whether or not Mosley built anything beyond what he took from Brecht has gone more or less unexamined. Years on, Mosley did not seem to think they did. He not only them as failures, he concluded that the entire enterprise ‘effectively couldn’t work’: I think I set myself a task that wasn’t viable. Though when I wrote Catastrophe Practice, I was terribly pleased with it. I thought I had really done something so enormously interesting here. Everyone would see what I was trying to do. They would be able to sense there’s something offstage that really matters. [...] The plays have not meant much to hardly anyone. (Flannagan and Mosley 91–2) Are they as inherently flawed as Mosley claims? Or is the failure in execution? What would it mean for them to succeed? Is it a failure if they require didactic explication? He tethered the plays in Catastrophe Practice to a series of essays laying out his vision (while settling a few scores); the scripts are given little opportunity to defend themselves. Perhaps the ‘Plays for Not Acting’ are best without reading Mosley’s attached screeds. Their knowing, reflexive directions are alienating yet unambiguous; the impenetrable dialogue ultimately draws one to their formal application and resonance. Unlike the Catastrophe Practice plays, Trotsky and Impossible Object are attempts at ‘not acting’ that do not rely on explanatory notes tucked between the acts, and as things stand, are the only recorded performances in the Brechtian-Mosleyan style. Yet the films are strange compromises. As they lost faith in the material, Losey and Frankenheimer created films that are almost hesitant in examining their artifice—perhaps unwitting examples of Mosleyan (non-)sincerity. His aims disintegrated in the hands of commercial cinema and, excepting Hopeful Monsters, has been largely ignored in literary circles. Yet despite its singular charms, and Mosley’s linguistic isolation, his ‘not acting’ is not without its parallels. New Novel, New Wave, Brecht, and Britain Mosley’s ‘not acting’ should be viewed alongside the co-development of the New Novel and the New Wave, and the marked influence of Brecht in filmmaking and contemporary film theory. Pinter and Losey were vocal in distancing Accident from the influence of French cinema. Losey defined their general approach against directors ‘like Godard’ and the ‘virtue of scorning craft’ (Camera Three); elsewhere Pinter discussed adapting Accident in opposition to Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais): At first we thought of perhaps trying to do it the way the book does, to find a direct film equivalent to the free-association, stream-of-consciousness style of the novel. [...] Do exactly the same thing on film and the result is precious, self-conscious, over-elaborate—you’re using absurdly complex means to convey something very simple. Instead, you should be able to convey the same sort of apprehension not by opening out, proliferating, but by closing in, looking closer and closer, harder and harder at things that are there before you. For example, it seems to me that Marienbad works very well in its own terms, on the level of fantasy. But there is another way of doing it, and one I personally would find more interesting to explore. In a real, recognisable Paris an ordinary, reasonably attractive woman sits at a café table, wearing what she would be wearing, eating and drinking what she would be eating and drinking. An equally ordinary, everyday sort of man comes up to her. ‘Excuse me, but don’t you remember we met last year at Marienbad?’ ‘Marienbad? Impossible—I was never in Marienbad last year...’ and she gets up, walks out to an ordinary, believable street and gets into a real taxi. (Gale 168–9) Marienbad was written by Alain Robbe-Grillet, a leading proponent of the French New Novel (nouveau roman). He along with Marguerite Duras often collaborated on New Wave films and were themselves filmmakers in the Left Bank. In addition to shared personnel, the two movements were ‘lauded and deplored for their characteristic structural devices: repetition, circularity, return, refusal (or inability) to achieve closure, spiraling in on themselves, gaps, holes, blank spaces [...] and figures of infinite regress’ (Higgins 15). Pinter’s project with Accident was to reject the ‘precious, self-conscious’ style he saw in Robbe-Grillet. Fittingly, he adapted an experimental novel reliant on comparable structural devices, deadening its stream-of-conscious narration through his characteristic silences and ellipses. The effect, for O’Brien, was to miss the point of the novel entirely: Accident outside ‘the style, tone, atmosphere, and texture’ of Mosley’s prose has ‘no content’ (O’Brien and Mosley 64). Pinter was not the only British figure to openly deride the writer of Marienbad. Curiously, Robbe-Grillet was invited to the 1962 International Writers’ Conference (at the Edinburgh Festival) to speak on ‘Theatre and Its Rivals’ (Laurie 51). Robbe-Grillet argued that film was best suited for portraying the workings of the mind and its exchange with the outer world. In response, a procession of British playwrights, directors, and critics attacked Marienbad. Peter Brook spoke of its ‘conspicuously artificial images into which no shreds of simple recognizable life come’ while Kenneth Tynan dismissed the writer’s ‘mystical insistence on man’s inability to distinguish the real from the unreal’. Then John Arden stood up and began to sing off-key (this was met ‘with rapt attention’). ‘That’, said Arden, ‘in a rough incompetent way, is theatre’. He said while he ‘admired’ Marienbad, he did not ‘like’ it; Marienbad held the spectator back at a distance, while live theatre allowed communication back to the artists. For Arden, ‘cinema is continually beholden to the stage [...] we feed the cinema’ (51–2). For Britain at least, he was right. The films of the British New Wave (1957–63) are all adaptations of social realist novels and plays. In The History of British Literature on Film 1895–2015, Semenza and Hasenfratz contend films like A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961) and This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, 1963) were what amounted to Britain’s arthouse cinema—‘radical’ adaptations which ‘reflected its era’s changing attitudes about the canon’ (291, 296). (Despite their critical and commercial success—The Go-Between won the Palme d’Or—they make no mention of the Pinter-Losey films, all adapted from English novels.) In adapting Accident Pinter and Losey ventured into space untouched by contemporary British filmmakers. While the dogged realism of John Osborne and Shelagh Delaney challenged social norms, their rather conventional forms are a world away from the structures of Robbe-Grillet or Mosley. The twenty-seven authors surveyed alongside Mosley in Booth’s Amongst Those Left: The British Experimental Novel 1940–1980 more-or-less resisted adaptation particularly in the 60s and 70s. For Gąsiorek, ‘Until the 1970s it was thought that with few exceptions postwar British novelists had rejected modernism’s literary experimentation and were bent on returning to conventional realism’ (192–3). Anti-realist novelists of the 40s and 50s like Beckett, Muriel Spark, and Rayner Heppenstall ‘set a standard’ for B. S. Johnson, Christine Brooke-Rose, and others who came after. These writers sought ‘to renew fiction through linguistic, narrative, and typographical experiments’ (197). Brooke-Rose was directly influenced by the New Novel and Robbe-Grillet (she was his translator) in her texts ‘woven and unwoven by stories and language’s arbitrariness’ (199) as was Johnson, whose experiments draw from, among others, Heppenstall and Robbe-Grillet’s innovations (Tew 60). Mosley’s work drifts between the ‘middle ground’ of Malcolm Bradbury and John Fowles, and the ‘experimental extremism’ of Brooke-Rose and Johnson (Gąsiorek 200). Johnson might be the English figure most comparable to Mosley with his series of accomplished experimental films between 1967 and 1974. Where in France there was a shared, syncretic development, the British experimental novel had little impact on British New Wave cinema, making Mosley’s (however abortive) intervention an interesting anomaly. This devotion to social realism over formal experimentation also bears out in the British New Wave’s resistance to Brechtian techniques. Brecht had a marked impact on New Wave filmmakers in Europe. Uhde points to Bergman and Sjöman (Sweden), Chytilová (Czechoslovakia), Makavejev (Yugoslavia), and Antonioni, Fellini, and Pasolini (Italy); Elsaesser finds ‘virtually every director of the so-called New Wave German Cinema’, including Kluge, Schlöndorff, Fassbinder, and Syberberg, ‘makes reference to Brecht, either as a source to be acknowledged or a cultural presence to come to terms with’ (171). He points to Alexander Kluge as ‘the most readily identifiable Brechtian’ as Yesterday Girl (1966) and Occasional Work of a Female Slave (1973) and others are typified by episodic narratives, frequent interruptions by voice-over or inserts, non-naturalistic acting, separation of sound from image, self-conscious staging of scenes, quotations from diverse sources, and, finally, their didactic-interventionist stance vis-à-vis contemporary social and political issues. (ibid.) Lellis argues Brecht infiltrated French film theory via Cahiers du cinéma, a breeding ground for both leading critics and directors. He argues that Brecht’s ideas became a focus for the magazine ‘first on a purely aesthetic level, in a concern for the relationship between the film and its audience’, and later ‘on a directly political level, in which the Marxist goals of Brecht [were] adopted as an orthodoxy’ (6). (Notably, Lellis points to the influence of Losey as a source of interest in Brecht at Cahiers.) Godard and Straub-Huillet are the French directors considered the most indebted to Brecht. For Elsasser, these men ‘transposed’ Brechtian devices ‘into filmic terms’ in their analysis of spectacle, development of ‘spectatorial distanciation’, and ideological critique of the representational form of cinema (170–1). He sees La Chinoise (1967) as the turning point for Godard, culminating in his ‘explicitly Brechtian films’ One + One (1968), British Sounds (1969), Le vent d’est (1969), and Tout va bien (1972). The bulk of these were made under the auspices of the Groupe Dziga-Vertov (formed by Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin), a collective dedicated to Marxist/Brechtian filmmaking. There is a sort of oath of fealty in La Chinoise; on a chalkboard is a list of major playwrights—including Kleist, Beckett, and Pinter. The names are erased one-by-one with Brecht the last remaining; Mosley does more or less the same in his ‘Skylight’ essay in Catastrophe Practice. Elsewhere, Godard expressed aims that resembled Mosley’s more closely: For a long time now I’ve been wanting to make a didactic movie on theatre, about Pour Lucrèce.19 At the beginning you’d see the girl who’d act the role get out of a cab; she’d be going in for an audition. Then you’d get into the play. You’d see an audition, a rehearsal, a scene in performance. From time to time there’d be some critique of the play itself. Some scenes would be done two or three times; the actors would make mistakes or the director would want to get something just right. [...] And the director could review the seven or eight great theories of theatre with the actors: Aristotle, the three unities, the Préface de Cromwell, The Birth of Tragedy, Brecht, and Stanislavsky—but they’d be doing it in the play still. At the end, the girl you saw coming in at the start would die: because Lucrèce dies; you wouldn’t know where the fiction stopped, then. A movie like this would aim to teach an audience what theatre is. (Schechter 27–8) Like Mosley, Godard was interested in examining the theatre through broken, fractured performances—what Mosley called ‘not acting’ and ‘(non-)sincerity’—and saw Brecht as an important stepping-stone towards a new understanding of theatre. Thus a turn to Brecht was de rigueur; Mosley’s work is part of a movement ‘almost exclusively devoted to the critical interrogations of the twin supports of mainstream cinema: narrative and the specular seduction of the image’ (Elsaesser 175). What makes Mosley less typical is the aversion to Brecht within British filmmaking. In 1975, the editorial board of Screen programmed a series on ‘Brecht and Cinema/Film and Politics’. Their aim was to examine Brecht’s own films, ‘recent attempts at a political cinema critical of its own means of representation’, and ‘the actual and potential impact of Brecht on cinema and television in Britain’ (Brewster 3). Lovell delivered a rather demoralized eulogy on the last point. He notes while English playwrights like John Osborne and John Arden employed Brechtian, experimental methods in the 50s and 60s, the outcome was ‘disappointing, generating techniques which remained techniques, divorced from Brecht’s ideas’ (66). Willett and Mathers say much the same; the former speaks of the plays as ‘modishly Brechtian’ relying on ‘superficial mannerisms (the projected titles, for instance, and the half-curtain)’ (81). Likewise, Lovell says their attempt to program British films for the series was ‘a dispiriting experience; we could find no connections, just an absence. All the issues posed by the interest in Brecht didn’t seem present in the British cinema at all’ (66). He cites the ‘basic conservatism’ of British filmmaking, arguing that the documentary movement ‘cut off the experimental direction of the British feature cinema’; the notion Brecht was seen only as a ‘theatre man’ in Britain, and how few sought to apply Brecht’s thinking to cinema; and how the ‘sober naturalism’ of the British New Wave in ways impeded a Brechtian approach, as it was seen as sufficient in presenting new cinema for the working class (66–7). Lovell then turns to the films of Lindsay Anderson, particularly O Lucky Man! (1973). Anderson often spoke of Brecht’s influence on his work since Mother Courage was staged in London in 1956 (Izod et al.). Adapted from Brecht, his films sought to ‘keep the audience aware that they are watching a constructed artefact’ (218). Yet Anderson openly did not embrace the Marxist aspects of Brechtian devices; he himself admitted Brecht would not have been particularly enthused by O Lucky Man! Whereas Brecht or Godard are essentially moralists (Uhde), Anderson saw himself as a ‘satirist [...] in his aesthetic disengagement from the vulgarities and stupidities of the struggle’ (Izod et al. 219). Critics have seized on this, echoing the broadsides against seeming ‘modish’ and ‘superficial’ Brechtian dramaturgy in Britain mentioned earlier (to be sure, Anderson was also a prolific theatre director).20 As an unnamed scholar says to Lovell: If there is an essential element in Brecht which would mark a film as Brechtian, it would be political, the film would have to take into consideration some notion of a dialectical process in society. O Lucky Man! and If... lack this totally, and if we don’t take that into account we’re only adopting certain stylistic features as a Brechtian technical system, which is a stylisation of the cinema and not Brechtian. (79) In the same session, MacCabe says despite their own hostility towards Anderson, If... (1968) and O Lucky Man! were the films that produced queues in their series ‘exactly because audiences want a certain reflection on the society they live in, and Lindsay Anderson is the only filmmaker who gives it to them, but then all they’re given is this smug superiority. In many ways it would better if the film didn’t exist’ (75). Lovell refuses to defend O Lucky Man! but notes it was ‘a great achievement simply to have got that work produced within [British] cinema’ (69).21 Mosley, like Anderson, was that rare thing: a professed Brechtian in British cinema; also like Anderson, he admitted to having no interest in Marxist elements of Brechtian devices. Rather he failed to see Brecht’s plays as Marxist: [W]hat is interesting about Brecht (and, indeed, what seems to make him a major artist) is just that his stated political conviction is so little in evidence in his work. What is demonstrated in Brecht’s plays is for the most part the ineffectuality of the proletariat as a mass: what is praised is individual human toughness and endurance. It is as if Brecht were saying: politics is, of course, a true subject-matter for art; but a true artist has to view his subject-matter truly; he may wish to be politically committed, but he has to see any commitment for what it is. (Mosley, The Uses ofSlime Mould 130) It holds true for Mosley: Trotsky, Impossible Object and the Catastrophe Practice series are ultimately ambivalent towards questions of class: instead applying these devices to an insular world of those on the immediate outskirts of power and influence. Losey had similarly contrarian22 ideas about the politics of Brecht’s art. In an article for Cahiers, Losey contends Brecht was neither a theorist nor a politician, and was ‘far more interested in the practical effects of the techniques he advocated’; he found Brecht’s Marxism was ‘peripheral’ to his plays and never dogmatic (Lellis 42). Mosley, like Losey and Anderson, saw the potential of Brecht somehow devoid of ideology. His work also reveals the dichotomy in Britain between social realism as the domain of dogmatic Leftist art and the world of reflexive, formal experimentation. The class-conscious filmmakers in Britain had little interest in Godard’s (let alone Mosley’s) filmic transposition of Brechtian techniques. Tynan and Arden, vocal apologists for Brecht (Esslin; Willett), were open critics of the potential of the New Novel. Mosley is an atypically British screenwriter (in his embrace of the New Novel), yet a typical British Brechtian (in stripping Brecht of his politics). 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Stoppard’s Theatre: Finding Order Amid Chaos . Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002. Frankenheimer, John, and Champlin Charles. John Frankenheimer: A Conversation with Charles Champlin . Burbank: Riverwood Press, 1995. Gale, Steven H. Sharp Cut: Harold Pinter’s Screenplays and the Artistic Process . Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2003. Gardner, Colin. Joseph Losey . Manchester: Manchester UP, 2004. Gąsiorek, Andrzej. “ Postmodernisms of English Fiction.” The Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-Century English Novel . Ed. Robert Caserio. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009: 192– 209. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Grigs, Derick. “ Oxford through Pinter Obliquely.” The Guardian  6 Aug. 1966: 7. Grimes, William. “Nicholas Mosley, Novelist and Biographer, Dies at 93.”  The New York Times 3 Mar. 2017. Accessed 11 Sept. 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/books/nicholas-mosley-dead-novelist-wrote-of-father.html Harries, Martin. 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Elmwood Park: Dalkey Archive Press, 2001. ———. The Uses of Slime Mould: Essays of Four Decades . Normal: Dalkey Archive Press, 2004. ———. Hopeful Monsters . London: Eland, 2009. Mraz, John. “ Killing Trotsky, Reviving Mercader.” Filmhistoria  26. 2( 2016): 7– 14. Nicholas Mosley: Writing Life . Dir. John Banks. UK. 2001. O Lucky Man!  Dir. Lindsay Anderson. UK. 1973. O’Brien, John, and Mosley Nicholas. “ An Interview with Nicholas Mosley.” Review of Contemporary Fiction  2.2 ( 1982): 58– 79. Pinter, Harold. Letter to Nicholas Mosley . May 1966. The British Library. ADD MS 88880/13/8. Pinter, Harold, and Billington Michael. “ Harold Pinter and Michael Billington in Conversation at the Film Theatre, 26 October 1996.” Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics, 1948–1998 . New York: Grove Press, 1998: 62– 71. Power, D. J. and Ram T. D.. “ Assassination.” Police Journal  61( 1988): 175– 82. Pratley, Gerald. The Films of Frankenheimer: Forty Years in Film . Bethlehem: Lehigh UP, 1998. Rahbaran, Shiva. The Paradox of Freedom: A Study of Nicholas Mosley’s Intellectual Development in His Novels and Other Writings . Rochester: Dalkey Archive Press, 2006. Rahbaran, Shiva, and Mosley Nicholas. Nicholas Mosley’s Life and Art: A Biography in Six Interviews . Champaign: Dalkey Archive Press, 2009. Reed, Rex. “ Lee Marvin, Master of ‘Aaarrugh!’” The Baltimore Sun  16 Sept. 1973: D1. Sachar, Howard Morley. The Assassination of Europe 1918–1942: A Political History . Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015. Schechter, Joel. “ Brecht and Godard in Ten Scenes from the Decline and Fall of Aristotle.” Theater  3. 1( 1970): 25– 30. Semenza, Gregory M. Colón, and Hasenfratz Robert J.. The History of British Literature on Film 1895–2015 . New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. Simmons, Steven. “ Tout va bien.” Film Comment  10.3( 1974): 54– 59. 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NOTES 1 ‘Catastrophe theory concerns the study of equilibrium behavior of a large class of mathematical system functions that exhibit discontinuous jumps (more precisely, the points of functions where at least the first and second derivates are zero)’ (van der Maas and Molenaar 396). 2 Their final film together would be The Go-Between (1971) as their adaptation of À la recherche du temps perdu, or The Proust Screenplay (1977), was never produced (although Pinter and Di Trevis adapted it for the stage in 2000). 3 Despite the caricature, Artaud, like Mosley, was interested in the relationship between performance and ‘catastrophe’. While Mosley’s theatre only ‘practiced’ for imminent events, Artaud was equally concerned with the fallout of past catastrophes on the spectator (Harries 29). 4 Pinter, as with Beckett—whose Happy Days (1961) Mosley derides later in Catastrophe Practice—is synonymous with the Theatre of the Absurd. 5 Losey’s conflation of Sassard and Anna is bizarre. Bogarde recalls she was completely terrified on set (Caute). 6 Mosley’s bookish, avian presence is a visual gag in one of the Oxford scenes. 7 Losey’s leftist associates—and members of Trotsky’s family—were wary of a ‘Mosley’ writing the film (de Rham). 8 For a reductive glossary, Brechtian devices include: estrangement, ‘[a] representation which estranges is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same time makes it seem unfamiliar’ (Spiegel 370); gestus, ‘a gesture or set of gestures [...] in which a whole social situation can be read’ (Barthes 36); and the separation of elements in ‘a text whose fissures and differences constantly demand an activity of articulation from the subject’ revealing ‘the contradictions of the reader’s position [from] within and without’ (MacCabe 48). 9 Burton-Trotsky cooing at a rabbit remains with me, unresolved. 10 Cortese played Natalia, Trotsky’s wife. 11 Other ‘leftover’ elements of Trotsky communicate Mosley’s preoccupation with Brecht. One is the sole discordant ‘flash’ Losey kept in—at one point Jacson sees an image of Stalin ripple by in the water. Others are to do with the depiction of art and artists in the film—particularly the murals by Orozco and Rivera that serve as motifs throughout (Hirsch). In the lead up to the first assassination attempt, a painter turns to the camera and sprays into the lens. For Bantcheva, these moments emphasize the artifice of the film and its ability and intention to fabricate truth. 12 It is ‘© 1972 Josef Shaftel Productions’, which might explain why Mosley stays away from explicitly critiquing, or even mentioning, the film. Only the dustjacket mentions his recently completed screenplay. 13 Although as will be discussed later, Mosley was keen to divorce Marx from Brecht and Trotsky. 14 Bantcheva considers the political images of Trotsky alongside those in Monsieur Klein (1976), a subsequent collaboration between Losey and Delon. 15 Frankenheimer relocated Natalie’s scenes; the bilingual nature of the film came at his insistence. In fact, the film was originally accepted to Cannes as a France entry but was later reclassified (Kelly). 16 Arguably this is what Bates is doing in the flashes/shifts in persona. Despite having been fired, Mosley stayed as Bates’ guest during shooting (Mosley, Efforts at Truth). Presumably they would have discussed ‘not acting’ ad nauseam. 17 Hopeful Monsters won the Whitbread Award; A. N. Wilson considered it ‘the best English novel to have been written since the Second World War’ (Grimes). Mosley says that is the only one in the series that ever seemed to connect with an audience, perhaps as by that point in Catastrophe Practice his ‘not acting’ was more a metaphor than anything else (Flannagan and Mosley). Tom Stoppard wrote a screenplay based on the novel; it was never produced (Fleming). 18 ‘The woman says “There was a film about two people who sat up all night talking about how to cover up for a girl.” The Professor says “It wasn’t in the film, it was in the book.” [...] The woman says “Do you sleep with her?” The Professor says “No of course I don’t sleep with her!” The woman says “Well you might do.”’ (Mosley, Judith, 101) 19 A 1944 play by Jean Giraudoux; adapted into English by Christopher Fry as Duel of Angels (1963). 20 Simmons invites one to compare Tout va bien with the ‘clumsy’ O Lucky Man! ‘Without Brecht’s deep humanistic and ideological commitment, and his insistence on reflective art, an insistence which grew out of this commitment, the technique means nothing’ (55). Izod et al. are comparatively impressed with O Lucky Man! and its ‘deconstruction of cinematic realism’ (225). 21 Lovell also argues that British critics ‘don’t put the same critical weight on Godard’ as they do Anderson, citing specious aspects of Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle (1967). 22 In a sense, Mosley did not see Trotsky as much of a Marxist either, but saw in him a man ‘dedicated to [...] the irony deep laid in the very relations of life’ (Rahbaran 126). © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Adaptation Oxford University Press

Nicholas Mosley and Films for Not Acting

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© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
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Abstract

Abstract The experimental novelist Nicholas Mosley (1923–2017) was briefly involved in film. This began with Accident (Losey), adapted from his novel by Harold Pinter, and was followed by his own screenplays for The Assassination of Trotsky (Losey) and Impossible Object (Frankenheimer). Mosley was often at odds with his collaborators—he was thrown off the latter projects, and essentially novelized Trotsky in retaliation. But writing for actors had a lasting impact on Mosley; it sparked an interest in performance that echoed through his work for decades, beginning with the ‘Plays for Not Acting’ in Catastrophe Practice (1979). The Assassination of Trotsky and Impossible Object, both beguiling films, can be appreciated as the first, abortive attempts at Mosley’s ‘not acting’ (largely developed out of an interest in Brecht). Mosley’s Catastrophe Practice plays can be seen as an extension or corrective of what he attempted in film. I examine the ways these films prefigured and refined Mosley’s approach to performance and consider the Mosley films in terms of trends in continental cinema: the co-development of the New Wave and the New Novel, and the marked influence of Brecht on contemporary filmmakers and film theory. Mosley’s brief intervention highlights a particular British aversion to both. The experimental novelist Nicholas Mosley (1923–2017) was briefly involved in film. This began with Accident (Joseph Losey), adapted from his novel by Harold Pinter, and was followed by his own screenplays for The Assassination of Trotsky (Losey) and Impossible Object (John Frankenheimer). Mosley was often at odds with his collaborators—he was thrown off the latter projects, and essentially novelized Trotsky in retaliation. But writing for actors had a lasting impact on Mosley; it sparked an interest in performance that echoed through his work for decades, beginning with the ‘Plays for Not Acting’ in Catastrophe Practice (1979). The Assassination of Trotsky and Impossible Object, both beguiling films, can be appreciated as the first, abortive attempts at Mosley’s ‘not acting’ (largely developed out of an interest in Brecht). Mosley’s Catastrophe Practice plays can be seen as an extension or corrective of what he attempted in film. I examine the ways these films prefigured and refined Mosley’s approach to performance and consider the Mosley films in terms of trends in continental cinema: the co-development of the New Wave and the New Novel, and the marked influence of Brecht on contemporary filmmakers and film theory. Mosley’s brief intervention highlights a particular British aversion to both. Going strictly by his previous novels, Catastrophe Practice seems a strange departure. Despite the shift to more fractured structures with Accident (1965), Catastrophe Practice is a ‘novel’ in name only, consisting of plays, essays, and short fiction. In ‘Skylight’, the introduction, Mosley sheds some light on this; he has come to see theatre and acting as the ideal means to both understand ourselves and to prepare for social and biological change. He says the plays are informed by catastrophe theory—where otherwise stable states are altered in a sudden jumps (the so-called ‘catastrophes’).1 In performance and spectatorship we could prepare, ‘practice’, for them. For Mosley, we learn through awareness of our own acting, the acting of others, and in being perceived. He says Brecht understood this (Artaud and Beckett did not). Mosley includes an interpretation of Brecht’s estrangement effect; he wants the reader not just aware of his words, but aware of the depicted performance. What is spoken is (perhaps) of no importance. That they are ‘Plays for Not Acting’ has a number of implications. They appear to resist performance; the plays seem to be being performed within the text itself. Named actors are assigned to the roles in each play (and in Cypher, the novella). As per the stage directions, actors alternate between naturalism, ‘theatrical’ performance, and ‘not acting at all’ (94). They communicate this self-awareness, (not) acting, and, vitally, its performance before an audience. In a postscript following the plays, Mosley says that it would be ‘unusual’ to have them performed (227) and admits there was already a misfire along these lines. He says he wrote a screenplay in the style of the plays; while ‘there had been interest in the ideas’, as to ‘what is acting and what is not’ (229), the production backed down from what the script required. As Mosley later recalled: ‘I became obsessed with the way actors or scriptwriters couldn’t or wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do’ (Flannagan and Mosley 91). The plays in Catastrophe Practice are an execution of his ideas where they could not be sabotaged; in the confines of the scripts, he could dictate every moment. In ways, Mosley was a novelist struggling in an interpretive, collaborative medium; his customary control did not extend to the film set. Catastrophe Practice sought to correct that. While he points to his experience adapting his novel Impossible Object (1969) as the impetus for writing the plays, they in many ways have their origin in the Pinter-Losey adaptation of Accident. ACCIDENT Nicholas Mosley, 3rd Baron Ravensdale, 7th Baronet, was the eldest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, a Conservative (then Labour) MP who founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Despite their fraught relationship—Mosley renounced his father’s politics (Grimes) —Oswald chose Nicholas to be his official biographer. The resulting two-part memoirs—Rules of the Game (1982) and Beyond the Pale (1983)—are among Mosley’s best; both a lucid account of his parents’ lives and a personal reflection of his childhood. Notably both he and his father were amateur filmmakers. Mosley says his father wrote, directed, and shot a film ‘in a rather German-expressionist style, with reflections in water of poplar trees and clouds moving’ (102). The surviving reel features some of Oswald’s coterie circa 1927: his first wife Lady Cynthia, Labour MP John Strachey, landscape artist Richard Wyndham, as well as Bright Young Things Stephen Tennant and photographer Cecil Beaton (in drag). Mosley directed several short films in the 40s and 50s. Like his father, Mosley shot his 16 mm films with friends and family. Filmmaker John Banks includes clips from The Policeman’s Mother (1949) in his Mosley documentary Nicholas Mosley: Writing Life (2001); he finds the film reminiscent of Chaplin and Buñuel ‘interweaving sentimentality and perversity’. For Mosley, it concerned ‘the frustrated Oedipal yearnings’ of authority (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 20). Mosley made an ‘even more indecorous’ follow-up in The Grave-digger’s Mother (1955)—he claims they were almost arrested for acting ‘unseemly’ in a cemetery (75). After this Mosley not only stopped making films, but briefly gave up writing, having grown disillusioned with that he called his ‘wordy, rhapsodic style’ and ‘terrible Dickens characters’ one was supposed to ‘condescend to’ (Nicholas Mosley). By the time he re-emerged with Accident, Mosley had shorn the ‘Angry Young Man’ of his early novels (Grimes), replaced with the cut-up, prismatic characters and narratives that would remain in his work for decades. The novel is narrated by Stephen, an Oxford don. He is enamored with his student Anna, as are others at the college; she has an affair with Charlie (one of Stephen’s colleagues) and is later engaged to William (another of his students). One night Anna and William are in a car accident near Stephen’s home. He investigates. William is dead. He pulls Anna from the wreckage. She somehow evades detection when the police interview Stephen. The next morning, Stephen summons Charlie, and the two discuss what to do with her. She was likely driving (without a license)—to report her would derail her life; to conceal her puts their own careers at risk. They decide to remain silent (or perjure themselves). The film was the second collaboration between Losey and Pinter, following the success of The Servant (1963).2 Horizon Pictures first suggested the novel to Losey; Pinter completed his first draft by July 1965. However, they soon fell out with Horizon boss Sam Spiegel over casting and Pinter’s elliptical script, forcing them to buy the rights for themselves (Caute). In May 1966, Pinter sent Mosley a draft of the screenplay with a letter explaining his adaptation (and ‘deviation’) from the novel: while Pinter mostly keeps to the plot, he has Stephen rape Anna the night of the accident. This, and Anna’s role in William’s death, is then kept from Charlie. Pinter said he needed Stephen and Anna in ‘final complicity’. He discussed this with Billington: Firstly, the sexual encounter, the rape, as you say, which it more or less is. I just felt it was a logical progression from two points of view. One is the emotion which is unleashed in the light of the accident; and the second in relation to power. I felt that Dirk Bogarde, Stephen, chose to exercise the power which he actually possessed at that moment. [...] The second scene about the discussion of the perjury seemed to me much too discursive and I thought it had no place; it was much too self-conscious. (70) Mosley was equivocal in response. He clearly wanted the film made—he was relieved that their problems with Horizon had been sorted out, and was moreover ‘flattered’ by the Pinter-Losey attention (Flannagan and Mosley 90). He cycles between praising Pinter—‘I feel it might be important—the first time some of this stuff has been done in a British film’—and trying to dissuade him against the rape scene: It seems to me (or a man like Stephen) difficult enough to make love to a 20-year-old girl for the first time in any conditions, but when she’s drunk or with a hangover and semi-concussed; and when it’s 5 a.m. and the man’s got quite a few worries on his mind—then it’s almost impossible, I mean in the sense that however much one wanted it one’s heart would just fail, or if not one’s heart, the other thing. He adds that ‘conventional morality’ at Oxford would likely deter a man like Stephen ‘through fear if not ethics’. Mosley was not alone in questioning the change. His concern was shared by Bogarde: ‘I resisted it as far as I could but [Losey] wanted it desperately badly [...] It was bestial and I think Joe wanted that crudity’ (Caute 185). Losey’s production notes to the actors confirm this; he wanted Stephen to humiliate and subdue Anna fully aware of his hypocrisy (184). The rape alters everything—for obvious reasons—the film is even structured around its climactic reveal. This (‘commentary on’) misogyny is reflected elsewhere: Pinter elides nearly all of Anna’s dialogue from the novel. The film opens with a few scenes of Anna (Jacqueline Sassard) concussed and in shock, before flashing back to her silent in tutorials. On first viewing it is unclear if hers is a speaking role at all. For Kernan, the role required Sassard to be a ‘receptacle for the fantasies and projections of the three men around her’ (61). Mosley’s Stephen says something similar of Anna: ‘We were fascinated because of that nothingness about her so that we could put anything we liked onto her’ (47). Before sending him the draft, Pinter had asked Mosley if Anna was a ‘victim’ or a ‘bitch’; they agreed she should be both (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 164). While Mosley considered the rape ‘a false note’ (Caute 185), he was in the end more pained by Pinter’s isolation of Charlie and removing the ‘perjury’ discussion between he and Stephen. Despite telling Pinter that he saw ‘the point of its [removal] being better dramatically’, Mosley considered this communication between the characters to be ‘the whole point of the book’: [W]hen something traumatic happens, either you can talk or you can’t, and I think you can. But, of course, Stephen and Charlie didn’t settle what they should do. They settled to face everything and see what happened. They accepted what happened. They would give truthful answers. Pinter wouldn’t or couldn’t do it. And so the film just ended with the two male characters unable to speak. (Flannagan and Mosley 90) For Mosley, ‘Pinter wouldn’t really do any of this—his specialty being noncommunication’ (O’Brien and Mosley 64). Notably, his criticism of Pinter crops up in the ‘Skylight’ essay in Catastrophe Practice. Before turning to Brecht, Mosley dismisses the pervasive determinism and nihilism he saw in contemporary theatre. He does not mention Pinter by name, but describes certain playwrights’ inability or refusal to ‘communicate’: There has been a Theatre of Cruelty3—by which audiences are supposed to be bludgeoned into an increased insensitivity: a Theatre of the Absurd4—in which what is communicated often beautifully (and thus comfortingly) is that people cannot communicate. In all this there is an impression that these playwrights know much more than they say: by their craft they presuppose the existence of order and meaning, yet their plays state nothing of that of which this order and meaning consist. The art of their productions, that is, belies their pretensions of meaninglessness. (8) Further, in his autobiography, Mosley transitions sharply from discussing his problems with Pinter’s screenplay to quoting an article he wrote in Theology a few years earlier. It also concerned the fashionable pessimism then considered mark of a serious writer; where the individual ‘is an automaton’ without ‘freedom nor responsibility’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 270; Mosley “The Contemporary Novel”). Mosley is coy but the implication is clear: Pinter’s screenplay made Accident close to the very thing he wanted to avoid. Despite whatever foundation Brecht and maths were for Catastrophe Practice, Pinter’s negative influence was still on his mind. Mosley saw his career in two distinct phases; early, autobiographical novels, and his later work primarily concerned with ‘patterns’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 2); Accident is the turning point. Thus, many of his concerns in Catastrophe Practice have their root in his 1965 novel (their similar titles are no ‘accident’). In both, the trauma of catastrophe provides a channel for clarity and truth (Flannagan and Mosley). Catastrophe Practice imagines how the patterns of the mind could be suddenly transformed; Accident studies how these events can spark ‘discontinuities’ in human behavior and relationships (Chevaillier 247). For Mosley, the characters in Accident ‘are nearly always acting’, only to stop ‘at moments of crisis or intensity, when you have to make a choice’ (240). In this Chevaillier finds the characters attempt to reconstruct themselves in crisis. Yet the key shift between Accident and Catastrophe Practice is the function Mosley assigns to characters’ ‘acting’. In Accident, acting was the thing to overcome—catastrophe allows one to break out of roleplaying. In Catastrophe Practice, acting has become the method; performance and spectatorship are the means to enact change. There is nothing of this in the film; with Pinter excising Mosley’s discussion and response to the accident, his catastrophe only serves to get Anna raped. While Mosley and Losey both considered the accident a ‘catalyst’, they meant strikingly different things by it. For Mosley, the accident is ‘a catalyst in the sense that people can carry on with difficult, tormented relationships, keep them spinning, until something violent or disastrous happens which makes them think about their responsibilities’ (Grigs 7). Losey calls the accident ‘a catalyst, as the girl was a catalyst’ (Losey and Milne 18). He later expanded on this: The important thing was what was happening to the man, and the girl was just a catalyst, too. This is the reason why that poor unfortunate girl, Jacqueline Sassard, was quite unhappy on the picture, because she had these eyes which were windows, which you could look through, but she never is more than an instrument.5 She’s simply a catalyst for all the other things. That’s why she goes away, and when she does it all falls back. The only difference is that she’s left a dead man. (Ciment and Losey 264–5) Mosley’s Accident allows a man to be drawn out of self-absorption; Pinter and Losey’s draws him further in. Mosley allows one to change; for Losey it ‘all falls back’. Despite keeping superficially to the plot, in changing the ending the film evinces little interest in Mosley’s concerns, in particular his nascent preoccupation with performance and catastrophe. These would continue to be frustrated in his subsequent collaborations with Losey. THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY Still Mosley considered Accident ‘a good Pinter film’ and ‘was only too glad to have the big deal Pinter/Losey adaptation of my book’ (Flannagan and Mosley 90) and, one imagines, the notoriety it provided. Mosley also got along with Losey and had a brief cameo in the film.6 Around this time Mosley was finishing Impossible Object, a novel that retained Accident’s splintered narrative, collapsing the memories and fantasies of its protagonist into eight loosely connected (if irreconcilable) segments. Shortlisted for the inaugural Booker Prize, Impossible Object greatly impressed Losey. He encouraged Mosley to adapt it into a screenplay: I’d like nothing better than to be part of such an undertaking, excepting I wonder what film can do in any way to extend or supplement what you have already written down? [...] [A] film of this book would require the discovery of the visual, impossible fourth dimension. But that’s what we’ve been trying to do. (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 209). Mosley worked on the script over the next year and a half, resulting in what the director considered ‘an extraordinary extension of what I have tried to do in film’ (228). Although Catherine Deneuve and Bogarde were initially attached, Losey and his people had difficulty finding the money for it. While Losey had little luck with his financiers, Mosley soon had problems of his own. Following Accident and his metafictional script for Losey, Mosley was himself in a serious accident, shattering most of the bones down his right side. It is during this time, recuperating from the crash, when Mosley became more heavily concerned with performance (after chancing upon a Kleist play on the radio). In Kleist and later Brecht, Mosley saw the potential to visualize the ‘paradox of self-reflexivity’ (Rahbaran 123), a main concern of Impossible Object. Mosley was soon given a new project where he could develop this: Losey wanted a new script for The Assassination of Trotsky. He was dissatisfied with the earlier jargon-laden attempts by his fellow Stalinist Ian Hunter (Ciment and Losey; Flannagan and Mosley). As he considered Mosley ‘the most antipolitical writer’ he knew, Losey figured he could strike a workable balance between the drama and politics (Flannagan and Mosley 91).7 As Trotsky had funding, they put their Impossible Object on hold. While Accident prefigures aspects of Catastrophe Practice, Mosley began to write conscious of Brechtian techniques8 as he worked on Trotsky. He says he discussed his ideas of ‘not acting’ with Losey and the actors; Mosley insisted that his script required them to convey a ‘detachedness’ from the roles they played (Rahbaran 127). As well, Mosley built discordant ‘flashes’ into the screenplay; while the main story would be set in Mexico where Trotsky lived in exile, these scenes would convey Trotsky’s political and military life. Mosley was told that they would ‘be shot in grainy black-and-white as if they were contemporary newsreels’ (Rahbaran and Mosley 47). He intended these to compound the detached performance of the actor playing Trotsky; the ‘non-acting’ element of the role involved the character’s ambivalence towards his imminent death alongside his preoccupation with the ‘grim activity’ of his years with Lenin (ibid.). The reviews for Trotsky were poor; most singled out the performances given by lead actors Burton, who played Trotsky (‘with spectacles and chin whiskers and Welsh accent’) and Alain Delon (‘writhing with symptoms of haute-psychopathia behind dark glasses and blank expressions’) as Jacson, the trench-coated assassin (Medved and Dreyfuss 32). Others were nonplussed by a film concerned with a death with no interest in the life that defined it (Bennett; Malcolm). ‘Trotsky was an extremely public figure’ wrote Richard Schickel. ‘Given the vast amount we know about him, it is inexcusable to present him [...] mouthing platitudes’ (Medved and Dreyfuss 31–2). Mosley hated the film as well. He blamed it on Losey cutting out his ‘flashes’ (which would have dealt with Trotsky’s political life) and on the actors. Without the ‘flashes’, he felt the film had a ‘ghost-like quality; it was if as if none of the characters quite knew what on earth they were there for’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 239). As to Burton, Delon et al., Mosley found something off about the way actors spoke my lines—or perhaps they were bad lines. Anyway, the actors seemed to be trying to make them ‘sincere’ [...] what these actors seemed to be failing to do was to act this interplay between sincerity and failure. Was this something that actors could not do? Or was it my responsibility for not having made something of this more clear? (ibid.) The performances are something to behold; Delon’s scenes with Romy Schneider (a romance on- and off-screen) in particular. She plays Gita, who works for Trotsky. Jacson uses her to gain access to Trotsky’s fortified home—in all likelihood their relationship is a pretense. This dynamic is presented in a number of unbalanced, inexplicable exchanges. A memorable scene is in their bedroom: Jacson is on the bed, catatonic. He then lights a cigarette, she smashes a mug, they talk vaguely about Trotsky, she asks why he spells his name without a ‘k’; he then thrusts his fingers between her legs, asking, ‘You really want to talk?’ The scene is no aberration; Trotsky is littered with them. Yet it is unclear what the relationship is between Mosley’s script and the performances given.9 Are they intentionally strange; attempts (however successful) at the detached performances Mosley wanted? Or are they as Mosley saw it; the actors trying to impose naturalism on a script that oscillates between ‘sincerity and failure’? A few commentators—making no reference to Mosley’s intentions—have interpreted the performances in Trotsky to be attempts at estrangement. Mraz calls Jacson ‘a truly Brechtian creation’, a figure that ‘pushes away any sort of identification or empathy’ (10). For him, Delon sought to ‘distance [Jacson] from both the audience as well as the other characters’ (ibid.). Hirsch sees Burton’s Trotsky in a similar light and argues that Burton’s celebrity adds to the construction: Drained of primary vocal and emotional coloring, his interpretation is indeed Brechtian. Burton makes no attempt to sound like anyone other than himself, in self-conscious low gear: there is no effort at vocal imitation, there is no trace of a Russian accent, although Burton is made up in beard and pince-nez, to at least suggest visual echoes of the real-life Trotsky. [...] Burton is playing Trotsky in a detached and minimalist way, in a cool style designed to frustrate audience sympathy. (192–3) Hirsch believes casting Burton was to deliberately aid in this frustration—although Losey elsewhere makes clear that Bogarde was his first choice (de Rham; Ciment and Losey). In his career-spanning reflections with Ciment, which include a discussion of his friendship and collaborations with Brecht, Losey does not mention the ‘detachment’ of Mosley’s screenplay nor make any reference to Brecht or estrangement in the Trotsky performances. In regard to Burton, Losey says his performance was in part impaired by the struggles with alcohol; ‘he had all the withdrawal symptoms: he couldn’t remember lines, he had very little inspiration, he was dry and difficult and not good’ (325). Burton (in his diaries) makes similar accusations of Losey: ‘Joe is definitely not himself. He doesn’t seem to know the script as well as he usually does. Time and time again I, or the continuity girl, have to remind him of things that are very obvious. [...] Joe asked me why I was pausing. I told him why. Oh really let me look at the script. Yes, you’re quite right. Yes. Very Odd’ (504). Burton was not aware of any method in the performances nor Losey’s directing: I don’t know whether Joe is ill or regards this piece as a failure before it starts or has simply run out of gas, but he is passing performances in this film which an amateur director of the annual church pageant would turn down with a shudder. [...] It is bad enough with Valentina Cortese10 who is a good enough actress but acts in clichés and because of her discomfort with the language makes the quoted banalities she is forced to utter even more banal. I am beginning to wonder if the stuff they shot in Mexico with Delon and Schneider is equally bad. (499) Perhaps in every bad performance is a clandestine touch of Brecht. Whether the acting and direction were clueless or they disregarded Mosley’s intentions, vestiges of Brecht (however Mosleyan) remain in the film. First, Losey would have been amenable to a ‘Brechtian’ Trotsky; while Mosley came to Trotsky with a dilettante’s fervor, Losey was a former associate and long-time follower. He co-directed with Brecht the second (‘American’) version of Life of Galileo in 1947, and two years after Trotsky, adapted the play for American Film Theatre. For Gardner, there is ‘a mistaken tendency to see Losey as a purely Brechtian disciple’, but he believes the use of gestus and estrangement ‘play an important part in any analysis of Losey’s films’ (212). Thus alongside Mosley’s script—or irrespective of it—the performances Losey coaxed out of the actors may well reflect Brechtian elements Mosley envisaged for the film. Mosley’s call for a film and performances to push the boundaries of sincerity is reminiscent of La truite (1982). One of Losey’s last films, it follows a French trout farmer who finds herself in Tokyo nightclubs. A scattershot of naturalism with perplexing digressions (and overlong dance sequences), La truite is more clearly an exercise in estrangement than Trotsky, where perhaps Losey and the actors were lost in the aspects of a conventional drama lingering in Mosley’s script.11 Mosley first saw Trotsky at a private screening in Paris. His subsequent row with Losey about the cut flashes was serious enough for the latter to lose interest in directing Impossible Object. Mosley then rapidly set about adapting his Trotsky screenplay into a book. Losey was livid when he learned Josef Shaftel, the producer of the film, granted Mosley permission to do it (Caute). It sparked another blistering exchange between the two, with Losey, among other things, claiming someone of Mosley’s pedigree had no right to be writing about Trotsky (forgetting who had brought on Mosley in the first place). Mosley went ahead with his adaptation and it was published the same year as the film. His The Assassination of Trotsky is not an unabridged screenplay or a typical novelization, but rather a book of criticism that considers Trotsky’s death in relation to his life, politics, and writing on dialectics. Accordingly, it has been cited in sociological studies of Trotsky and political killings (Power and Ram; Sachar). For Mosley, it was less of a biography than ‘an effort at interpretation’; he adapted the historical ‘flashes’ Losey had removed into sections ‘which try to say who Trotsky was and what he had done and what he believed in’ (17). These alternate with journalistic accounts of the assassination attempts in Mexico. Without the former, Mosley argues Trotsky’s ‘personal drama has no meaning’ (ibid.). While an obvious slight to Losey, Mosley makes no mention of the film in the text.12 He makes no explicit reference to Brecht and his ‘not acting’, either. He does, however, discuss elements of roleplaying in both Trotsky and the assassin. While Jacson was incapable of reconciling the personas he had devised, the ‘dialectical’ Trotsky could successfully be both a ‘man of reflection’ and ‘man of action’ (176). Mosley may have well seen parallels in the ‘dialectical’ concerns of contemporary Marxists in Brecht and Trotsky or in their aesthetics.13 He closes the book emphasizing Trotsky’s notion that politicians should ‘learn from the nature of artistic activity’ (180), echoing the deconstructive ‘flashes’ of political art within the film.14 As an adaptation and extended exegesis of his screenplay, the book was Mosley’s first aesthetic salvo against Losey, actors, and interpretation of his scripts. IMPOSSIBLE OBJECT Mosley had lost a director for Impossible Object, yet out of prerelease hype for Trotsky there was still interest in the script. Impossible Object was eventually shown to Hollywood director John Frankenheimer, who was living in Paris at the time. In his quasi-exile Frankenheimer wanted to make a European art house film; Mosley’s agent sold him on the supposed ‘art-movie script to end all art-movie scripts’ (Rahbaran and Mosley 48). When Frankenheimer met with Mosley, he had him explain why the film ‘seemed to almost but not quite to fit together’ and its elliptical ‘flashes’ that blurred the narrative (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 241). Mosley made his case for the script and his ‘not acting’. As with Trotsky, the film’s success would hinge on the depiction of ‘not acting’ in order to give an ‘impression of being in touch with some reality’ of the patterns of our lives (242). Frankenheimer said he understood and took on the project. Mosley began revising the script in 1972. Yet as their work progressed he felt ‘the same things going wrong’ as they had on Trotsky. His relationship with Frankenheimer soured; Mosley was eventually fired and replaced (he shares writing credit with Eric Kahane on the film). Frankenheimer was never entirely comfortable with a screenplay drained of affect; a series of ‘memories, premonitions, and resonances’ where events ‘inside and outside the mind’ were not easily separated (243). Harry (Alan Bates), a writer, experiences overlapping and conflicting storylines; those with his wife Elizabeth (Evans Evans) and others with his mistress Natalie (Dominique Sanda). He struggles to keep the lives apart and is disoriented when events in one trigger memories of the other (via Mosley’s beloved ‘flashes’). In these moments, Harry seems to briefly break from his current persona. Throughout, Harry’s thoughts drift towards what becomes the climax of the film: a boating accident and the death of his child with Natalie. Natalie’s life away from Harry feels like a different film; a sparse, French15 drama with her husband Georges (Michel Auclair). As everything on screen is driven by Harry’s state of mind, it is never clear how much of her life is a fabrication or not. These scenes of clipped dialog and pallid performances are at odds with Harry’s manic shifts in persona. The titular ‘impossible object’ refers to both the irreconcilable narrative and these shifts, leaving Harry (and the viewer) to contemplate the extent to which they have contrived their own roles. Despite Mosley’s disappointment (he considered removing his name from the film), Impossible Object nonetheless presents characters, as described in Catastrophe Practice, that are not ‘recognisably simple and all-of-a-piece’; that are both ‘tormented and yet succeeding’ (229). The corollary of this is a (Brechtian) lack of identification; Impossible Object is never wholly invested in any emotional payoff for its audience. The death of the child at the end, in particular, is almost treated with contempt—after showing the lovers despondent on a beach, the film ends with smiling platitudes over drinks. For Mosher, Frankenheimer wanted it both ways: Mosley’s distancing script (and its lack of affect) while somehow ‘delivering the emotional power of a Hollywood melodrama’ (209). Composer Michel Legrand adds to the muddle. His score tries its best to communicate that this is a typical romantic film, providing a saccharine gloss to the ambivalent, half-hearted experimentation. Frankenheimer later said were he to re-edit the film he would cut out Mosley’s flashes to present a less complicated love story (Pratley 128). The film—‘quasi-Losey, quasi-Fellini’ (Combs 51) and/or ‘suave boredom’ (Reed D1)—screened out-of-competition at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, above Frankenheimer’s objections (he was still editing the film). It was shown late in the festival and received little coverage (Frankenheimer and Champlin). Soon after, the film’s production company went bankrupt; the film never received commercial distribution. Frankenheimer stole a print and entered it himself into the 1974 Atlanta Film Festival, where it won best picture, a best screenplay award for Mosley, and best score for Legrand (Engle and Frankenheimer; ‘Industry Activities’). The film eventually surfaced on VHS as Story of a Love Story. Mosley says it would occasionally crop up on late night television: ‘I watch it with embarrassment, and some fascination’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 246–7). CATASTROPHE PRACTICE Mosley found Frankenheimer ignored his vision while Bates and the others acted once again in ‘the old conventional style’ (Rahbaran and Mosley 48). Mosley wanted actors to perceptively doubt his script on screen.16 He complained that the actors still seemed to be either ‘joking or sincere’, and he had wanted them ‘to find, or create, what sincerity or non-sincerity might be’ (Mosley, Efforts at Truth 247). After seeing his second screenplay fail to be performed with a knowing detachment he sought to write plays that would unequivocally capture his approach. These appear in Catastrophe Practice (1979) and Serpent (1981), and are referenced in the other books in the Catastrophe Practice series—Imago Bird (1980), Judith (1986) and Hopeful Monsters (1990).17 The series, which follows the lives of seven loosely connected individuals in art, politics, and science, often alludes to Mosley’s work in film—the debacle over Pinter’s Accident screenplay is referenced in Judith18 while Imago Bird is swarming with Trotskyites. Mosley’s rows with Losey and Frankenheimer inspired much of Serpent, where a screenwriter makes a futile case for his ‘not acting’ script about Masada. Self-references aside, the Catastrophe Practice plays, essays, and novels, like the earlier screenplays, are experiments toward a new theory of performance. Whether or not Mosley built anything beyond what he took from Brecht has gone more or less unexamined. Years on, Mosley did not seem to think they did. He not only them as failures, he concluded that the entire enterprise ‘effectively couldn’t work’: I think I set myself a task that wasn’t viable. Though when I wrote Catastrophe Practice, I was terribly pleased with it. I thought I had really done something so enormously interesting here. Everyone would see what I was trying to do. They would be able to sense there’s something offstage that really matters. [...] The plays have not meant much to hardly anyone. (Flannagan and Mosley 91–2) Are they as inherently flawed as Mosley claims? Or is the failure in execution? What would it mean for them to succeed? Is it a failure if they require didactic explication? He tethered the plays in Catastrophe Practice to a series of essays laying out his vision (while settling a few scores); the scripts are given little opportunity to defend themselves. Perhaps the ‘Plays for Not Acting’ are best without reading Mosley’s attached screeds. Their knowing, reflexive directions are alienating yet unambiguous; the impenetrable dialogue ultimately draws one to their formal application and resonance. Unlike the Catastrophe Practice plays, Trotsky and Impossible Object are attempts at ‘not acting’ that do not rely on explanatory notes tucked between the acts, and as things stand, are the only recorded performances in the Brechtian-Mosleyan style. Yet the films are strange compromises. As they lost faith in the material, Losey and Frankenheimer created films that are almost hesitant in examining their artifice—perhaps unwitting examples of Mosleyan (non-)sincerity. His aims disintegrated in the hands of commercial cinema and, excepting Hopeful Monsters, has been largely ignored in literary circles. Yet despite its singular charms, and Mosley’s linguistic isolation, his ‘not acting’ is not without its parallels. New Novel, New Wave, Brecht, and Britain Mosley’s ‘not acting’ should be viewed alongside the co-development of the New Novel and the New Wave, and the marked influence of Brecht in filmmaking and contemporary film theory. Pinter and Losey were vocal in distancing Accident from the influence of French cinema. Losey defined their general approach against directors ‘like Godard’ and the ‘virtue of scorning craft’ (Camera Three); elsewhere Pinter discussed adapting Accident in opposition to Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais): At first we thought of perhaps trying to do it the way the book does, to find a direct film equivalent to the free-association, stream-of-consciousness style of the novel. [...] Do exactly the same thing on film and the result is precious, self-conscious, over-elaborate—you’re using absurdly complex means to convey something very simple. Instead, you should be able to convey the same sort of apprehension not by opening out, proliferating, but by closing in, looking closer and closer, harder and harder at things that are there before you. For example, it seems to me that Marienbad works very well in its own terms, on the level of fantasy. But there is another way of doing it, and one I personally would find more interesting to explore. In a real, recognisable Paris an ordinary, reasonably attractive woman sits at a café table, wearing what she would be wearing, eating and drinking what she would be eating and drinking. An equally ordinary, everyday sort of man comes up to her. ‘Excuse me, but don’t you remember we met last year at Marienbad?’ ‘Marienbad? Impossible—I was never in Marienbad last year...’ and she gets up, walks out to an ordinary, believable street and gets into a real taxi. (Gale 168–9) Marienbad was written by Alain Robbe-Grillet, a leading proponent of the French New Novel (nouveau roman). He along with Marguerite Duras often collaborated on New Wave films and were themselves filmmakers in the Left Bank. In addition to shared personnel, the two movements were ‘lauded and deplored for their characteristic structural devices: repetition, circularity, return, refusal (or inability) to achieve closure, spiraling in on themselves, gaps, holes, blank spaces [...] and figures of infinite regress’ (Higgins 15). Pinter’s project with Accident was to reject the ‘precious, self-conscious’ style he saw in Robbe-Grillet. Fittingly, he adapted an experimental novel reliant on comparable structural devices, deadening its stream-of-conscious narration through his characteristic silences and ellipses. The effect, for O’Brien, was to miss the point of the novel entirely: Accident outside ‘the style, tone, atmosphere, and texture’ of Mosley’s prose has ‘no content’ (O’Brien and Mosley 64). Pinter was not the only British figure to openly deride the writer of Marienbad. Curiously, Robbe-Grillet was invited to the 1962 International Writers’ Conference (at the Edinburgh Festival) to speak on ‘Theatre and Its Rivals’ (Laurie 51). Robbe-Grillet argued that film was best suited for portraying the workings of the mind and its exchange with the outer world. In response, a procession of British playwrights, directors, and critics attacked Marienbad. Peter Brook spoke of its ‘conspicuously artificial images into which no shreds of simple recognizable life come’ while Kenneth Tynan dismissed the writer’s ‘mystical insistence on man’s inability to distinguish the real from the unreal’. Then John Arden stood up and began to sing off-key (this was met ‘with rapt attention’). ‘That’, said Arden, ‘in a rough incompetent way, is theatre’. He said while he ‘admired’ Marienbad, he did not ‘like’ it; Marienbad held the spectator back at a distance, while live theatre allowed communication back to the artists. For Arden, ‘cinema is continually beholden to the stage [...] we feed the cinema’ (51–2). For Britain at least, he was right. The films of the British New Wave (1957–63) are all adaptations of social realist novels and plays. In The History of British Literature on Film 1895–2015, Semenza and Hasenfratz contend films like A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961) and This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, 1963) were what amounted to Britain’s arthouse cinema—‘radical’ adaptations which ‘reflected its era’s changing attitudes about the canon’ (291, 296). (Despite their critical and commercial success—The Go-Between won the Palme d’Or—they make no mention of the Pinter-Losey films, all adapted from English novels.) In adapting Accident Pinter and Losey ventured into space untouched by contemporary British filmmakers. While the dogged realism of John Osborne and Shelagh Delaney challenged social norms, their rather conventional forms are a world away from the structures of Robbe-Grillet or Mosley. The twenty-seven authors surveyed alongside Mosley in Booth’s Amongst Those Left: The British Experimental Novel 1940–1980 more-or-less resisted adaptation particularly in the 60s and 70s. For Gąsiorek, ‘Until the 1970s it was thought that with few exceptions postwar British novelists had rejected modernism’s literary experimentation and were bent on returning to conventional realism’ (192–3). Anti-realist novelists of the 40s and 50s like Beckett, Muriel Spark, and Rayner Heppenstall ‘set a standard’ for B. S. Johnson, Christine Brooke-Rose, and others who came after. These writers sought ‘to renew fiction through linguistic, narrative, and typographical experiments’ (197). Brooke-Rose was directly influenced by the New Novel and Robbe-Grillet (she was his translator) in her texts ‘woven and unwoven by stories and language’s arbitrariness’ (199) as was Johnson, whose experiments draw from, among others, Heppenstall and Robbe-Grillet’s innovations (Tew 60). Mosley’s work drifts between the ‘middle ground’ of Malcolm Bradbury and John Fowles, and the ‘experimental extremism’ of Brooke-Rose and Johnson (Gąsiorek 200). Johnson might be the English figure most comparable to Mosley with his series of accomplished experimental films between 1967 and 1974. Where in France there was a shared, syncretic development, the British experimental novel had little impact on British New Wave cinema, making Mosley’s (however abortive) intervention an interesting anomaly. This devotion to social realism over formal experimentation also bears out in the British New Wave’s resistance to Brechtian techniques. Brecht had a marked impact on New Wave filmmakers in Europe. Uhde points to Bergman and Sjöman (Sweden), Chytilová (Czechoslovakia), Makavejev (Yugoslavia), and Antonioni, Fellini, and Pasolini (Italy); Elsaesser finds ‘virtually every director of the so-called New Wave German Cinema’, including Kluge, Schlöndorff, Fassbinder, and Syberberg, ‘makes reference to Brecht, either as a source to be acknowledged or a cultural presence to come to terms with’ (171). He points to Alexander Kluge as ‘the most readily identifiable Brechtian’ as Yesterday Girl (1966) and Occasional Work of a Female Slave (1973) and others are typified by episodic narratives, frequent interruptions by voice-over or inserts, non-naturalistic acting, separation of sound from image, self-conscious staging of scenes, quotations from diverse sources, and, finally, their didactic-interventionist stance vis-à-vis contemporary social and political issues. (ibid.) Lellis argues Brecht infiltrated French film theory via Cahiers du cinéma, a breeding ground for both leading critics and directors. He argues that Brecht’s ideas became a focus for the magazine ‘first on a purely aesthetic level, in a concern for the relationship between the film and its audience’, and later ‘on a directly political level, in which the Marxist goals of Brecht [were] adopted as an orthodoxy’ (6). (Notably, Lellis points to the influence of Losey as a source of interest in Brecht at Cahiers.) Godard and Straub-Huillet are the French directors considered the most indebted to Brecht. For Elsasser, these men ‘transposed’ Brechtian devices ‘into filmic terms’ in their analysis of spectacle, development of ‘spectatorial distanciation’, and ideological critique of the representational form of cinema (170–1). He sees La Chinoise (1967) as the turning point for Godard, culminating in his ‘explicitly Brechtian films’ One + One (1968), British Sounds (1969), Le vent d’est (1969), and Tout va bien (1972). The bulk of these were made under the auspices of the Groupe Dziga-Vertov (formed by Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin), a collective dedicated to Marxist/Brechtian filmmaking. There is a sort of oath of fealty in La Chinoise; on a chalkboard is a list of major playwrights—including Kleist, Beckett, and Pinter. The names are erased one-by-one with Brecht the last remaining; Mosley does more or less the same in his ‘Skylight’ essay in Catastrophe Practice. Elsewhere, Godard expressed aims that resembled Mosley’s more closely: For a long time now I’ve been wanting to make a didactic movie on theatre, about Pour Lucrèce.19 At the beginning you’d see the girl who’d act the role get out of a cab; she’d be going in for an audition. Then you’d get into the play. You’d see an audition, a rehearsal, a scene in performance. From time to time there’d be some critique of the play itself. Some scenes would be done two or three times; the actors would make mistakes or the director would want to get something just right. [...] And the director could review the seven or eight great theories of theatre with the actors: Aristotle, the three unities, the Préface de Cromwell, The Birth of Tragedy, Brecht, and Stanislavsky—but they’d be doing it in the play still. At the end, the girl you saw coming in at the start would die: because Lucrèce dies; you wouldn’t know where the fiction stopped, then. A movie like this would aim to teach an audience what theatre is. (Schechter 27–8) Like Mosley, Godard was interested in examining the theatre through broken, fractured performances—what Mosley called ‘not acting’ and ‘(non-)sincerity’—and saw Brecht as an important stepping-stone towards a new understanding of theatre. Thus a turn to Brecht was de rigueur; Mosley’s work is part of a movement ‘almost exclusively devoted to the critical interrogations of the twin supports of mainstream cinema: narrative and the specular seduction of the image’ (Elsaesser 175). What makes Mosley less typical is the aversion to Brecht within British filmmaking. In 1975, the editorial board of Screen programmed a series on ‘Brecht and Cinema/Film and Politics’. Their aim was to examine Brecht’s own films, ‘recent attempts at a political cinema critical of its own means of representation’, and ‘the actual and potential impact of Brecht on cinema and television in Britain’ (Brewster 3). Lovell delivered a rather demoralized eulogy on the last point. He notes while English playwrights like John Osborne and John Arden employed Brechtian, experimental methods in the 50s and 60s, the outcome was ‘disappointing, generating techniques which remained techniques, divorced from Brecht’s ideas’ (66). Willett and Mathers say much the same; the former speaks of the plays as ‘modishly Brechtian’ relying on ‘superficial mannerisms (the projected titles, for instance, and the half-curtain)’ (81). Likewise, Lovell says their attempt to program British films for the series was ‘a dispiriting experience; we could find no connections, just an absence. All the issues posed by the interest in Brecht didn’t seem present in the British cinema at all’ (66). He cites the ‘basic conservatism’ of British filmmaking, arguing that the documentary movement ‘cut off the experimental direction of the British feature cinema’; the notion Brecht was seen only as a ‘theatre man’ in Britain, and how few sought to apply Brecht’s thinking to cinema; and how the ‘sober naturalism’ of the British New Wave in ways impeded a Brechtian approach, as it was seen as sufficient in presenting new cinema for the working class (66–7). Lovell then turns to the films of Lindsay Anderson, particularly O Lucky Man! (1973). Anderson often spoke of Brecht’s influence on his work since Mother Courage was staged in London in 1956 (Izod et al.). Adapted from Brecht, his films sought to ‘keep the audience aware that they are watching a constructed artefact’ (218). Yet Anderson openly did not embrace the Marxist aspects of Brechtian devices; he himself admitted Brecht would not have been particularly enthused by O Lucky Man! Whereas Brecht or Godard are essentially moralists (Uhde), Anderson saw himself as a ‘satirist [...] in his aesthetic disengagement from the vulgarities and stupidities of the struggle’ (Izod et al. 219). Critics have seized on this, echoing the broadsides against seeming ‘modish’ and ‘superficial’ Brechtian dramaturgy in Britain mentioned earlier (to be sure, Anderson was also a prolific theatre director).20 As an unnamed scholar says to Lovell: If there is an essential element in Brecht which would mark a film as Brechtian, it would be political, the film would have to take into consideration some notion of a dialectical process in society. O Lucky Man! and If... lack this totally, and if we don’t take that into account we’re only adopting certain stylistic features as a Brechtian technical system, which is a stylisation of the cinema and not Brechtian. (79) In the same session, MacCabe says despite their own hostility towards Anderson, If... (1968) and O Lucky Man! were the films that produced queues in their series ‘exactly because audiences want a certain reflection on the society they live in, and Lindsay Anderson is the only filmmaker who gives it to them, but then all they’re given is this smug superiority. In many ways it would better if the film didn’t exist’ (75). Lovell refuses to defend O Lucky Man! but notes it was ‘a great achievement simply to have got that work produced within [British] cinema’ (69).21 Mosley, like Anderson, was that rare thing: a professed Brechtian in British cinema; also like Anderson, he admitted to having no interest in Marxist elements of Brechtian devices. Rather he failed to see Brecht’s plays as Marxist: [W]hat is interesting about Brecht (and, indeed, what seems to make him a major artist) is just that his stated political conviction is so little in evidence in his work. What is demonstrated in Brecht’s plays is for the most part the ineffectuality of the proletariat as a mass: what is praised is individual human toughness and endurance. It is as if Brecht were saying: politics is, of course, a true subject-matter for art; but a true artist has to view his subject-matter truly; he may wish to be politically committed, but he has to see any commitment for what it is. (Mosley, The Uses ofSlime Mould 130) It holds true for Mosley: Trotsky, Impossible Object and the Catastrophe Practice series are ultimately ambivalent towards questions of class: instead applying these devices to an insular world of those on the immediate outskirts of power and influence. Losey had similarly contrarian22 ideas about the politics of Brecht’s art. In an article for Cahiers, Losey contends Brecht was neither a theorist nor a politician, and was ‘far more interested in the practical effects of the techniques he advocated’; he found Brecht’s Marxism was ‘peripheral’ to his plays and never dogmatic (Lellis 42). Mosley, like Losey and Anderson, saw the potential of Brecht somehow devoid of ideology. His work also reveals the dichotomy in Britain between social realism as the domain of dogmatic Leftist art and the world of reflexive, formal experimentation. The class-conscious filmmakers in Britain had little interest in Godard’s (let alone Mosley’s) filmic transposition of Brechtian techniques. Tynan and Arden, vocal apologists for Brecht (Esslin; Willett), were open critics of the potential of the New Novel. Mosley is an atypically British screenwriter (in his embrace of the New Novel), yet a typical British Brechtian (in stripping Brecht of his politics). 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Rahbaran, Shiva. The Paradox of Freedom: A Study of Nicholas Mosley’s Intellectual Development in His Novels and Other Writings . Rochester: Dalkey Archive Press, 2006. Rahbaran, Shiva, and Mosley Nicholas. Nicholas Mosley’s Life and Art: A Biography in Six Interviews . Champaign: Dalkey Archive Press, 2009. Reed, Rex. “ Lee Marvin, Master of ‘Aaarrugh!’” The Baltimore Sun  16 Sept. 1973: D1. Sachar, Howard Morley. The Assassination of Europe 1918–1942: A Political History . Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015. Schechter, Joel. “ Brecht and Godard in Ten Scenes from the Decline and Fall of Aristotle.” Theater  3. 1( 1970): 25– 30. Semenza, Gregory M. Colón, and Hasenfratz Robert J.. The History of British Literature on Film 1895–2015 . New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. Simmons, Steven. “ Tout va bien.” Film Comment  10.3( 1974): 54– 59. Spiegel, Simon. “ Things Made Strange: On the Concept of ‘Estrangement’ in Science Fiction Theory.” Science Fiction Studies  35. 3( 2008): 369– 85. Tew, Philip. “ B. S. Johnson: Influences and Comparisons.” The Legacies of Modernism: Historicising Postwar and Contemporary Fiction . Ed. David James. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006. 53– 72. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Uhde, Jan. “ The Influence of Bertolt Brecht’s Theory of Distanciation on the Contemporary Cinema, Particularly on Jean-Luc Godard.” Journal of the University Film Association  26. 3( 1974): 28– 44. van der Maas, Han L., and Molenaar Peter C.. “ Stagewise Cognitive Development: An Application of Catastrophe Theory.” Psychological Review  99.3( 1992): 395–417. Willett, John. “ Ups and Downs of British Brecht.” Re-Interpreting Brecht: His Influence on Contemporary Drama and Film . Ed. Pia Kleber and Colin Visser. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990: 76– 89. NOTES 1 ‘Catastrophe theory concerns the study of equilibrium behavior of a large class of mathematical system functions that exhibit discontinuous jumps (more precisely, the points of functions where at least the first and second derivates are zero)’ (van der Maas and Molenaar 396). 2 Their final film together would be The Go-Between (1971) as their adaptation of À la recherche du temps perdu, or The Proust Screenplay (1977), was never produced (although Pinter and Di Trevis adapted it for the stage in 2000). 3 Despite the caricature, Artaud, like Mosley, was interested in the relationship between performance and ‘catastrophe’. While Mosley’s theatre only ‘practiced’ for imminent events, Artaud was equally concerned with the fallout of past catastrophes on the spectator (Harries 29). 4 Pinter, as with Beckett—whose Happy Days (1961) Mosley derides later in Catastrophe Practice—is synonymous with the Theatre of the Absurd. 5 Losey’s conflation of Sassard and Anna is bizarre. Bogarde recalls she was completely terrified on set (Caute). 6 Mosley’s bookish, avian presence is a visual gag in one of the Oxford scenes. 7 Losey’s leftist associates—and members of Trotsky’s family—were wary of a ‘Mosley’ writing the film (de Rham). 8 For a reductive glossary, Brechtian devices include: estrangement, ‘[a] representation which estranges is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same time makes it seem unfamiliar’ (Spiegel 370); gestus, ‘a gesture or set of gestures [...] in which a whole social situation can be read’ (Barthes 36); and the separation of elements in ‘a text whose fissures and differences constantly demand an activity of articulation from the subject’ revealing ‘the contradictions of the reader’s position [from] within and without’ (MacCabe 48). 9 Burton-Trotsky cooing at a rabbit remains with me, unresolved. 10 Cortese played Natalia, Trotsky’s wife. 11 Other ‘leftover’ elements of Trotsky communicate Mosley’s preoccupation with Brecht. One is the sole discordant ‘flash’ Losey kept in—at one point Jacson sees an image of Stalin ripple by in the water. Others are to do with the depiction of art and artists in the film—particularly the murals by Orozco and Rivera that serve as motifs throughout (Hirsch). In the lead up to the first assassination attempt, a painter turns to the camera and sprays into the lens. For Bantcheva, these moments emphasize the artifice of the film and its ability and intention to fabricate truth. 12 It is ‘© 1972 Josef Shaftel Productions’, which might explain why Mosley stays away from explicitly critiquing, or even mentioning, the film. Only the dustjacket mentions his recently completed screenplay. 13 Although as will be discussed later, Mosley was keen to divorce Marx from Brecht and Trotsky. 14 Bantcheva considers the political images of Trotsky alongside those in Monsieur Klein (1976), a subsequent collaboration between Losey and Delon. 15 Frankenheimer relocated Natalie’s scenes; the bilingual nature of the film came at his insistence. In fact, the film was originally accepted to Cannes as a France entry but was later reclassified (Kelly). 16 Arguably this is what Bates is doing in the flashes/shifts in persona. Despite having been fired, Mosley stayed as Bates’ guest during shooting (Mosley, Efforts at Truth). Presumably they would have discussed ‘not acting’ ad nauseam. 17 Hopeful Monsters won the Whitbread Award; A. N. Wilson considered it ‘the best English novel to have been written since the Second World War’ (Grimes). Mosley says that is the only one in the series that ever seemed to connect with an audience, perhaps as by that point in Catastrophe Practice his ‘not acting’ was more a metaphor than anything else (Flannagan and Mosley). Tom Stoppard wrote a screenplay based on the novel; it was never produced (Fleming). 18 ‘The woman says “There was a film about two people who sat up all night talking about how to cover up for a girl.” The Professor says “It wasn’t in the film, it was in the book.” [...] The woman says “Do you sleep with her?” The Professor says “No of course I don’t sleep with her!” The woman says “Well you might do.”’ (Mosley, Judith, 101) 19 A 1944 play by Jean Giraudoux; adapted into English by Christopher Fry as Duel of Angels (1963). 20 Simmons invites one to compare Tout va bien with the ‘clumsy’ O Lucky Man! ‘Without Brecht’s deep humanistic and ideological commitment, and his insistence on reflective art, an insistence which grew out of this commitment, the technique means nothing’ (55). Izod et al. are comparatively impressed with O Lucky Man! and its ‘deconstruction of cinematic realism’ (225). 21 Lovell also argues that British critics ‘don’t put the same critical weight on Godard’ as they do Anderson, citing specious aspects of Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle (1967). 22 In a sense, Mosley did not see Trotsky as much of a Marxist either, but saw in him a man ‘dedicated to [...] the irony deep laid in the very relations of life’ (Rahbaran 126). © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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