Think of Henry Miller Asleep & Awake (IndiePix Films) as a cinema verité “dear John”. The quiet ticking of a clock gives way to the stirrings and rumblings of a lump hidden under the blankets. Pajama-clad, the lump throws back the covers, stretches, groans and grumbles. He rises and goes to his mirror in a tiled room he knows well.
The man is literary legend Henry Miller, the author of the infamous, groundbreaking Tropic of Cancer, and the room is his bathroom. It’s a miraculous shrine covered with photos and drawings collected by Miller over the course of his long and fruitful life. Graciously, in his raspy, sonorous voice, he points out the highlights of his improvised gallery speaking on various Buddhas, Blaise Cendrars, Hieronymous Bosch and Gaugin; several Japanese writers; Hermann Hesse; a stone carving by Jung; women he found attractive; his tendency to hear “celestial music” in airplanes; the relationship between Zen and sex; the fact that “most writers don’t look so hot” (because they spend so much time alone); and the question of identity, which “harasses” him.
This portrait from Emmy-winning director Tom Schiller, filmed in 1973 when the author was 81, is a voyage of ideas about life, writing, sex, spirituality, nightmares, and New York that captures the warmth, vigor and high animal spirits of a singular American artist.