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netribution > features > interview with derek malcolm > page one
I bumped into Derek Malcolm at the Sheffield Documentary Festival whilst attempting to exit Fred Wiseman masterclass a la mob. Malcolm had just interviewed Wiseman, a very funny and ironic man, and had hoped to grab a quiet drink and smoke in the bar before they caught the London train together. Wiseman was swamped by doc buffs and idolisers shouting and elbowing even close friends to get a 'moment' with the man. I fled like a flustered fawn up the stairs to an empty bar only to have my loyal plastic pal (a NatWest Premier Gold, oooh!) rudely refused on the grounds of minimum charge - £10. Needless to say I cursed the barkeep and the whole system as I swing around aggressively. After apologising to the veteran critic for attempted GBH with a credit card, a visionary solution soared across my mind - buy the man a coffee and yourself a huge whiskey on ice - £10.27p and dry out a till with the cashback of sweet revenge. Malcolm has been the Guardian newspaper's film critic for 30 years but I bet you don't know what he did before that cherished vocation? We smoked like men on Death Row while he lambasted the general quality of UK film criticism, celebrated the merits of Ozu Yasujiro and waxed sentimental about point to point racing. This was a conversation so interesting I forgot to take any photos - I stole many and played with them until I was too far behind schedule to care, then I played some more.

| by tom fogg |
| photos by tom fogg|
| in sheffield |
  What did you do before you became a film critic?
Well I left Oxford and couldn't get the sort of job that I wanted so I started out as an amateur rider. I won 13 races in a couple of years, including one at Cheltenham, lots of 2nds and 3rds but it was such a tough job I couldn't go on. I became an actor because I'd done a lot of acting at University. I was a professional actor for about 3 years but I just thought that it was so precarious, so chancy and I couldn't accept a job that was so make or break so I went into journalism. Local journalism as the theatre critic for the Gloucestershire Echo, it was a pretty good paper at one time but it's pretty awful now. I then wrote to Brian Redhead, who was the then features editor of the Guardian, saying 'I can't stand this much longer, have you got a job?' He replied by asking me to write an article which, to my great surprise was top of the arts page the next day. It got me into terrible trouble at the Echo because I had taken the piss out of Cheltenham but I became a features sub editor at the Guardian. From there I became a deputy theatre critic but after that they began looking for a racing correspondent because the Guardian had never done racing. They told me I was the only one there who knew the back from the front of a horse and asked me if I'd do it, I agreed until they found another one.

Weren't you interested?
Yes but I wanted to write for the arts department and I didn't want to be sent all over the country with these boring people, most of them are only slightly more intelligent than the horses! (laughter)

When did you move across to film?
Well, as deputy theatre critic I moved over to be deputy film critic and I can't remember why or how, the thing is that if you are there, they might choose you. The famous Guardian critic, Richard Roud was about to retire, I became the film critic and I did that for 30 years. On the 30th year they asked me if I wanted to go on, I said I wanted to stop. Can you imagine the shit we have to see every week? The advantage was always the access to festivals and world cinema so I said that I'd like to do the festivals, I don't want to take them away from the person appointed but I'll help by writing a column every week.

Is it possible to pick out one film that has really stayed with you over 30 years?
It depends on my mood, it changes every day but the one I always mention is a film called Tokyo Story by a chap called Ozu Yasujiro. It's one of the greatest films I've ever seen and it came out before my time but I saw when it was revived.

What's so special about it?
Well, it's the story of some elderly parents who are invited to Tokyo by their children, their children are terribly busy and don't know what to do with them. The sons and daughters invite to various glamorous theatre trips but the parents aren't interested so they decide to pack them off to the seaside for a holiday. When they return their children want to be nice to them but are just too busy, they go back home and the line of the film is, 'it’s a pity our children don't like us'! (laughter) It’s a very quiet film but it’s the best I've ever seen about family relationships. Its not dramatic in any way, very peaceful and absolutely superb.

Is it still in print?
Probably on video but you have to say that nobody could make that film better than this old Japanese chap.
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