… he is a completely negative, unconstructive, amoral writer, a mere Jonah, a passive acceptor of evil, a sort of Whitman among the corpses. — George Orwell (1940)
I suppose that is the way many persons looked upon Henry Miller then, but Orwell actually liked Miller and gave high praise for his novels. Miller drifted into the background over the years, almost forgotten, until Philip Kaufman gave us Henry and June back in 1990. Kaufman is quite a fan of Miller, but sadly this film was rather poorly cast and didn’t give the most memorable impression of Henry Miller or his dear muse, June.
There was an early version of Tropic of Cancer (1970) by Joseph Strick with Rip Torn playing Miller’s alter ego on the screen, and Ellen Burstyn as his wife, Mona. This was the book that caused all the trouble back in the 1930’s. It was banned in both the US and UK, but underground copies were widely circulated. Miller himself even makes a brief cameo.
The same year Jens Jørgen Thorsen brought Quiet Days in Clichy to the screen. The film slipped pretty much under everyone’s radar screen, although it was the winner of the Prix Byzance, the best erotic film of the year. Claude Chabrol also took a turn with the short novel in 1990, although it is not his best effort.
Probably best to see The Henry MIller Oddysey, a 1969 documentary by Robert Snyder. Henry’s open sexuality in his books inspired many writers and filmmakers. But unlike Anais Nin, a good friend of Miller’s, he was searching for something more in his novels than just sex, and as he aged his novels took on a deeper philosophical tone. His Rosy Crucifixion trilogy came to represent the apex of his work, although I’m a big fan of his travel writings as well, like The Colossus of Maroussi, which chronicled his time in Greece.
Here is a wonderful little documentary on Henry Miller entitled Asleep and Awake, which highlights Miller’s obsession with Bosch. It is fun just to hear him expound on his many thoughts.
Also interesting to read that Miller was on the Cannes Film Festival Jury in 1960. Apparently, Kagi was his favorite film that year, but he gave his final vote to La Dolce Vita when Kagi failed to make the short list.
It surprises me that more filmmakers haven’t taken on Henry Miller’s books, as there is so much to draw from. Here are a few movies that I think to one degree or another channeled Henry Miller.Read less