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Подписка на рассылку > Публикации > Статьи > Люди > Interview with Adrian Maben

Interview with Adrian Maben — Director of Live At Pompeii

Russian version

First meeting with Floyd

Now I didn't know anybody. I didn't know any of the Pink Floyd. I just rang up the manager, Stephen O'Rourke, and I said I was in Paris but could I come over and see him at any time he wished? He very kindly set up a meeting and I went to see him. So we talked about the eventuality of doing a film. He said yes. He was very polite. Then I went back to Paris and we didn't speak for another six months. I thought, "Six months, that's a long time." So I rang him again. We arranged a second meeting.

So I came back to London, and on this particular occasion, David Gilmour was there. David was very nice and sweet. He said, "What do you want to do?" I said I wanted to make this film. "Where do you want to do it?" I said, "I don't know yet." Then I had this idea that we should do a film which would be kind of a marriage of art and the Pink Floyd. So I talked to David, and to Stephen O'Rourke, about paintings by Magritte, by De Chirico, and contemporary painters like Christo, or even Jean Tinguely. I said maybe we could do something which would be a marriage between their music and the paintings of these painters or sculptors. In retrospect, I think that was an embarrassingly bad idea and would have been terrible. David Gilmour was kind and said, "Yes, how interesting. We'll think about it." And then we each went our own way.

Why Pompeii and not some other place?

After this meeting, there was no news. And I, for various reasons, went with a girlfriend of mine to Pompeii. We were touring Italy, and if you have enough time, you want to go to Pompeii. And we trundled round Pompeii under the hot sun, and sat and ate a sandwich in the amphitheatre, and things like this. Then, in the evening, I suddenly realised I'd lost my passport. The only place I could have lost it was when we were in the amphitheatre. It must be there, on the floor. So I went back alone, at about 8pm, into the amphitheatre. Suddenly, while I was looking for my passport, I thought, "This is it!" There was the silence, it was night time, it was very eerie. And I thought, "This is where the PF have got to be." Because Pompeii has a lot going for it. It has death. It has sex. And something that's still living there. Pink Floyd, in that amphitheatre, could bring the whole things back to life.

Why make this kind of film?

This was a time when the thing to do, or the big thing not to do, was to film a group and the audience reaction. This all culminated in Woodstock, where you have millions of people. And this was it. It was the show and the public reacting to the show. And I thought after a while this gets boring, because it's the same things. It's that or it's reportage, like the Pennebaker film on Bob Dylan, which was made in '65, where you've got Pennebaker with this great camera, for the first time following Dylan around during his tour in Britain. There are some fantastic shots in there. But it's a style, it's reportage, and I thought would there be any point in doing that again with the Floyd? I thought the least one could do was find an original idea. If you just do the same thing again, it's another concert film. I felt, at the time, that we'd had enough of concert films. So the main idea of the film was to do a sort of anti-Woodstock film where there would be nobody present, and the music and silence, and empty amphitheatre, would mean as much, if not more, than a million crowd.

Like a record

There was another challenge. I knew from the start the Pink Floyd would never, ever be filmes using a playback. They said, "Under no circumstances would we do that." I'd heard that reputation. So I knew that would be the case. There was another thing that intrigued me, and after all if we make films, we make them to learn things. This was that you has to do the musical recording which was so important, on a 24-track, as though it was a record. The idea of making a film as though it were a record, using techniques like in a recording studio was interesting and perhaps news. New to me, anyway, and I wanted to explore that possibility.

The road manager at the time, whose name was Peter Watts, thought that quality of the 24-track recording was at least as good, if not better than any recording studio, say in London or elsewhere. The reason being that the sound would bounce off the stone walls of the amphitheatre and it gave a rather nice echo to the whole film. Echo for Echoes is not bad.

Getting there and getting started or not

Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii was filmed in October 1971. In those days, the Pink Floyd had a lot of equipment, a lot of gear. A vast amount, in fact. So it all had to be loaded up onto huge Avis trucks. They just drove from London to Pompeii. It tool three or four days to get there. And then unloaded it at Pompeii. The initial project was for six days and the unfortunate thing was that, when we started to unloaded and get everything rigged up before they arrived the electricity wouldn't work, and when it did work, it immediately went off. It didn't have the necessary power. Nobody had thought about this problem. So this became a problem and a source of stress.

When the Floyd arrived by plane, from London, the electricity still wasn't working. So this became more than a problem. It became a major crisis. For two days, we tried to get it to work. Everybody was coming. The Italians were saying, "We'll fix it in an hour." Then in six hours. Then next day, and so on. I suddenly had, of my five or six days shooting, I had three days eaten up. We couldn't do anything. In the end, managed to get a cable that went from the amphitheatre to the town hall in Pompeii which was quite a distance. So somebody had to look after the cable, to make sure nobody pulled it out or stepped on it. So it was a complication. The worrying thing was that it took three days to solve.

Crisis what crisis?

We took them to Pozzuoli where we did some shots of mudbaths and fumarole, with all this steam stuff coming out, which was easy to do and took a day. Even that was complicated, because when we went there, there was a procession of the Virgin Mary in Pompeii and we stuck behind this procession for hours. I began to think the whole thing is a disaster and what am I doing here? Then after this third day of disaster, the whole thing just went like a charm.

Local attraction

When we did the film, we tried to keep the stadium, completely empty because the idea was to have this concert just for us. And so we blocked of all the entrances. I should say that the music, when it was played inside the amphitheatre, you couldn't hear much of it outside, so that helped, too, not to draw a crowd. But inevitably, some children wriggled their way in. So they sat in a corner. They wanted to get autographs. These were kids between seven and twelve. They stayed and watched, which was fine.

When I went back to Pompeii in 2001 to do the Director's Cut, I first went to the tourist office in Pompeii. I was going to get permission again to do some helicopter shots and then man in the office looked at me, and I looked at him. He said, "I know you." I said, "How?" because I didn't recognize him at all. He said, "Do you remember you were filming here 30 years ago?" I said, "Yes, vaguely." He said, "I was one of the kids in the arena." I thought that was amusing.

Track selection

Stephen O'Rourke brought with him, when he came from London, a demo record, unrealized, and said, "This is what they want to do. Listen to it." I remember spending the night before we eventually started to shoot listening to it on a tiny gramophone I borrowed from the hotel, doing my musical synopsis. What to do at a particular time, when to use the tracking, what camera angles, all done the night before. I think the plan was done in one night. It's as simple as that.

You know you've got the amphitheatre to put in the shot whenever you want to. I didn't need a wide shoot all the time. The wide shot was only used at the beginning and the end. In order to move a camera, you need about an hour, just to move it 50 yards. The thing had to be precise. It's always back to the same thing. You need to be mentally prepared, and to be that, you need to put it on a paper. Today it would be a computer, but then it was a pen, paper and a stopwatch.

The choice of the tracks was the Pink Floyd's, that's for sure. We had to start off with, and finish with Meddle. Then they wanted to do various things. The only suggestion I made was that we should do one or two of the old numbers, Like Careful With That Axe, Eugene and Saucerful of Secrets. Saucerful of Secrets we did in Pompeii, in the late afternoon and Careful With That Axe, Eugene we did in Paris, where some later shooting took place.

Holes in the music

There were no tracks that were filmed and not used. We only had three days to do the whole thing and I would have loved to have done more. They had a tight schedule. They had to leave and it wasn't possible to stay on. So what was filmed was use in the Pink Floyd film. The other idea was to bring them to Paris and to do the few extra shots, a few extra pieces in Paris and use Transflix, a front projection procedure. You have this huge machine, like an iron elephant, on stage or in the studio and you feed into it whatever you want. You can feed onto film, or you can feed into it 6X6 transparencies. This projects onto a screen and the Pink Floyd can be standing in front of it, so it was as thought they were in Pompeii, because you can project scenes from Pompeii, either fixed shots or film shots.

In retrospect, I think Transflix was the feeblest element in the whole film. It was a bad idea. After the few projections with the Floyd, they said, "We don't like this much." But it was too late, we had to keep it. If the film could be done again, then I would have not done that at all.

Room for improvement

I'm always disappointed at what I do. I always think it could have been better, I always think that:maybe I shouldn't have done it at all. I anguish about things that went wrong. And, in a way, I suppose I'm still making the same film. You still want to correct what you think are faults. This might not be so when people watch it, as what you think are defects, somebody else might think of as being qualities, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm always unhappy about the result I think there are things I did not do. I'm very frustrated, always. The Floyd were extremely perfectionist, as I remember. They would go on with a record, until they got it exactly as they'd like. And even then, one or two of them weren't happy about it.

A few of my favourite things

I think the best things about the film are the following.

First of all, obviously, the surroundings of Pompeii. And the light. I think the light is fantastic there. Especially in the morning and evening as is usual in any southern country. But somehow the October light had a sort of ethereal quality to it. It has these nice copper, ochre colours in the evening, and these very light grey-blues in the morning. That somehow comes across in the film. I think one feels the light in the film, which is possibly important. We didn't have to add much light. It was the sun and its rays being reflected off the stone walls.

The other thing I still like about the film I the silence of Pompeii. After we'd finished every take, which could last three to five minutes The Pink Floyd would then say, "We'd like to listen to what we 've done." They would all go and huddle up round the 24-track recording machine and listen to what they'd just done with headphones. While they were listening, there was complete silence. Here you were, in this amphitheatre, with the Pink Floyd, with the roadies, with the sound engineers, 20 tons of equipment and you could hear a pin drop. It was that eerie and that silent. You thought that something was going on. You felt something was happening. You didn't know what, but you felt you were in the right place, at the right time. Then you know you've got a film.

Dark Side of the Studio

In 1973, I went fly-fishing with Roger Waters. We both like fly-fishing and while we were fly-fishing, I mentioned to him, "Would it be good if we could do some filming for Pink Floyd live at Pompeii, the next version, in a recording studio?" It 's all very well having them play in Pompeii and recording in a canteen, but you don't see how they make these sounds, how creatively they make them. What technique do they use? It's interesting, just curiosity really.

So they kindly me back with a small crew, one 35mm camera this time, to film in the EMI studios, Abbey Road, because Pink Floyd were starting to record Dark Side of the Moon. It so happened that year it was DSotM. I think it's extremely lucky that it was DSotM, but I think part of the film is being at the right place at the right time. There's an element of hazard and luck involved. You have to have that luck. It could have been something less interesting, but we were there. The result is in the longer film.

Staying friends

During the black and white shoot in Paris in 1972, when they were doing the mixing of the film in a Paris recording studio, we did some questions and answers. They took the mickey out of me all the time. I tried to put on a stern face.

Maben: Are you fairly happy about the film?

Roger Waters: What do you mean "happy"?

Maben: do you feel it's going in a direction — which is interesting? Or not?

Roger Waters: What do you mean "interesting"?

One of the questions was how did they manage to continue working together, because they had been working together for a long time without having quarrels, without having arguments, and so on. They nearly all said they had devised ways and means of working together. They would not talk much about subjects which got others touchy in the group. And that on the whole, the situation was quite under control. There was no sign whatsoever then that any divorce would come about. As it did later. They were very much on top of the world at that time. Very creative. Their creativity sparked off one against the other. One would say something, the other would say the opposite, all done with a sense of humour, which didn't spoil things. That sense of humour, that sense of "what is trivial is interesting", plus their music, was a combination of things which was highly seductive.

Howling dog blues

During the shoot in Paris which took place in the spring of 1972, the group suddenly decided they wanted to do a howling dog blues sequence. At that time, I had no idea about howling dogs. Bur I did know Madonna Bouglione, thе daughter of Joseph Bouglione, the circus owner, who happened to walk around the streets of Paris with a huge Afghan name Nobs. Could the dog do the trick? Madonna came to the studios in the outskirts of Paris accompanied by the huge, sensitive, but skinny Nobs. David played the harmonica, Roger the acoustic guitar and Rick Wright held the dog on the table and pointed the microphone... As it turned out, Nobs was a star, and did a perfect howling job to the blues, all in tune, and just in the right places.

Reel life

I remember later on, I met Dick Lester, who was talking about the way he made the Beatles film, A Hard Day's Night. The production sent to see the Beatles and talk about what they'd do. He was sent to Paris to see them and he remembers, so he told me, quite vividly talking to them in the hotel, and watching them mess around, watching them talk and joke, and said, "This is the film. It's right here." He felt that a film had to be made about their daily life, and what went on in it in a situation like a hotel.

At that time, the EMI canteen was a fairly dilapidated canteen where you could just buy eggs and bacon, or tea, or things like that. Above all, you could buy apple pies and Nick Mason goes on for ten minutes about what kind of apple pie he's like. He didn't want round apple pie, he wanted it without crust, it had to be square apple pie, and was there any left, or not? The big debate was maybe everybody had eaten the bit that he wanted to eat. He keeps asking for this kind of apple pie. We say there's none that he wants. He says, "Better no apple pie than round apple pie." This goes on and on. The way in which he says it, with a sense of humour, suddenly you feel that ordinary dialogue, just chit-chat between two peopke or three people, becomes interesting. And that Pink Floyd were very good at doing. It's not Shakespare, it's just everyday life. That's also what the film was about, what they do when they want apple pie. Ordinary things. You get away from pretentious shots into everyday life.

Lost and not found

To do the Director's Cut we started to look around for extra shots which we could use. In other words, rushes that had not been used in the 1971 and 1973 versions. Unfortunately, the rushes have been lost. So we had to invent other ideas. Of all the footage that we did, nothing remains, either a copy or the negative, which is very sad, but that's the case. For example, there are certain things where you have Nick Mason drumming I'm Going to Cut You into Little Pieces is basically just a Nick Mason piece, but there are other people playing as well not having them is a handicap. There should have been shots of David Gilmour's guitar, shots of Roger Waters. There should have been a shot of Wright on the organ. In fact all those shots we had, but they've lost.

Sequels (All things are not sequel)

Due to the film's financial success, pretty evident as soon as it came out, and thanks mainly to Pink Floyd, the producers came back to me and they said, on several occasions, "Couldn't we do something else in the same vein? Deep Purple at the Taj Mahal? Or couldn't we have Moody Blues playing in the Grand Canyon?" The producers thought that this was a kind of fashion that had been set. You could put a group on the moon, film them, and it would all be great. That was preposterous. The film had been done in Pompeii. That was enough. It was a unique experience and we needed to move on.

What the critics said?

People who liked Pink Floyd music loved it. People who didn't, hated it. And I think this is true right across the board. In America, in Poland, in France or in England. The film version came out in the cinemas. I think that helped for publicity, for selling it on videocassettes. The videocassettes market at the time was quite strong. You had to like the music. If you didn't, there was no point in seeing it. Fortunately, a lot of people did like it.

What is the Director's Cut?

Since the early 1970s, things have been going on in space, probes have been sent to the planets. Probes have been sent circling the sun. and there is the Hubble telescope, which has done some fantastic photos of nebulae which are millions of light years away. We are seeing images which were absolutely impossible to obtain before.

I thought, as the years went on and these images came back to Earth, there somehow there was a good marriage between the music and these images. Just as bringing Pompeii back to life with their music seemed intuitively to be a good idea. I thought that could it not be, in some outer planet, in some outer world there would be people who had heard the music coming from Earth, coming from this stone amphitheatre in Pompeii, and were intrigued by it? And they would send people in a rocket to Earth to listen more carefully to it. It would be invisible once it got here. At end of the concert, they'd go home. So the rocket at the beginning of the film, is not taking off from Earth. It's taking off from some outer world. And that was the Director's Cut.

Hopefully people will like it, but you can never predict. Like we were talking about DSotM, you can't predict its success. It's like having a baby. It grows up and you have to release it. Maybe he will do good things, maybe he won't. You can never tell. People who say they can tell, they don't really know, they just think that they know.

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