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Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (1976)

A documentary on the life of the alcoholic writer Malcolm Lowry, interspersed with readings of Lowry's work by Richard Burton. Lowry was born and educated in England. He moved to Mexico in ... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Marjorie Bonner ...
Herself
Donald Brittain ...
Narrator (voice)
John Buchan ...
Himself (archive footage)
...
Malcolm Lowry (voice)
Arthur Calder-Marshall ...
Himself
Albert Russel Erskine ...
Himself
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A documentary on the life of the alcoholic writer Malcolm Lowry, interspersed with readings of Lowry's work by Richard Burton. Lowry was born and educated in England. He moved to Mexico in 1936, where he lived near the volcano Popocatepetl, on an allowance from his father. There, between drunken bouts, he started writing his one important novel, "Under the Volcano" that takes place on the Mexican day of the dead. He takes eight years to finish it, writing most of it while living in a shack in British Colombia, Canada. Written by Will Gilbert

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November 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le volcan: une réflexion sur la vie et la mort de Malcolm Lowry  »

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1.44 : 1
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This documentary is featured on The Criterion Collection's 2-disc DVD set for Under the Volcano (1984). See more »

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Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #9.1 (1996) See more »

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Penetrating, but negativity a bit overdone
19 August 2009 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

The strength of this documentary is the appearance of many who knew Malcolm Lowry personally, including his widow, Margery Lowry (Bonner). It traces the emotional and physical geography of Malcolm Lowry's turbulent life, including his most productive time, the 14 years he and Margery spent living in a beach shack in Dollarton (now part of Vancouver) BC, Canada.

Margery Bonner is the unnamed spouse in Malcolm Lowry's The Forest Path to the Spring, which is a fictionalized account of their years at Dollarton ("Eridanus"). This novella, thought to be Lowry's "most optimistic work" (by George Bowering), describes that period in idyllic terms, with many positive references to his spouse, by the unnamed narrator. It was published posthumously along with a parallel work, The Bravest Boat, from The October Ferry to Gabriola.

Volcano, though, is an unremitting tragedy that begins at the bottom of a life, and goes downhill from there. Richard Burton's lugubrious reading from Lowry's prose is powerful, but dreary. One is tempted to ask, Is that all there is? No, it isn't. The Forest Path to the Spring stands in counterpoint to Volcano. The novella certainly portrays the author's inner demons, but offers as well a lightness, a powerful hymn to the spirit of a place, and a description of a life at least partly redeemed.


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