A look back at this day in film history
December 03
Tony Richardson November 14, 1991
Tony Richardson dies

By the time of his death in 1991, Tony Richardson was perhaps as well-known for being the one-time husband of Vanessa Redgrave and the father of Natasha Richardson as he was for being an Academy Award-winning film director. Indeed some tabloids focused on the manner of his death, that being from AIDS at age 63, by slinging out headlines like “Secret Shame,” rather than highlighting the depth of his achievement in life. The only son of a chemist, Richardson was not raised in a theatrical family. But in high school, and then later at Oxford, he found in a drama a natural outlet for his talents. His unique productions in college gained him a position at the BBC, which pushed him in the direction of television and films. From the start, Richardson had a knack for channeling the creative zeitgeist of his times. In the mid fifties, he helped form the Free Cinema movement with Sight and Sound editors (and later filmmakers) Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz, after which he connected with the Angry Young Men school of drama, working closely with playwright John Osborne on the films Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer. Later, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and A Taste of Honey were held up as examples of the tough social realism of the Kitchen Sink school. But just as Richardson became known for presenting a raw, unflinching look at contemporary Britain, he made Tom Jones, a sexy, colorful adaptation of Henry Fielding’s great 18th century comic novel, for which he received a best director Oscar, while the film won Best Picture. Richardson’s work––36 stage plays, 20 films and 44 television drama––continued to defy expectation, even up to his last film, a surprising military drama called Blue Sky (with Tommy Lee Jones and Jessica Lange), which was released several years after his death.

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December 3, 1930
Jean-Luc Godard born

Perhaps not coincidentally, cinema’s premiere critic of bourgeois politics was raised in an affluent and comfortable life. Jean-Luc Godard was born in Paris, the second of four children, to a respected physician with his own clinic and a mother whose family had strong banking interests.

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December 3, 1993
Derek Jarman's Blue in New York

On a December Friday in New York City in 1993, cineastes got the chance to get a look at Derek Jarman’s new film, Blue. The British painter, filmmaker and activist had increasingly gained an American reputation with homoerotic art films like Caravaggio and Edward II, placing him along with Todd Haynes and Gregg Araki at the forefront of New Queer Cinema. But those who had not read about Blue beforehand found the screening a confusing and uncomfortable situation. While the soundtrack contained an ongoing discussion between Jarman, Tilda Swinton and others for 79 minutes, the screen stayed a constant, undying blue. By the time he made the film, Jarman, one of Britain’s most profound colorists, was going blind from cytomegalovirus, an AIDS-related infection. Departing from this world and into language, Jarman found comfort in the abstract warmth of a blue metaphor (from sad to open to the far beyond), creating in the process a stunning experimental film about the limits of film, sight and life itself. In a little more than two months after it was screened in New York, Derek Jarman was dead from complications due to AIDS.

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