I was at the Henry Thornton grammar school in Clapham, south-west London, with the artist Tom Phillips and we became close friends, swapping passions and enthusiasms: his for painting and mine for cinema, and mutually music. He was undoubtedly the cleverest person at the school, with such a range of interests that it was difficult to keep pace with them. He was restless and loved challenges, telling me once that he chose to learn the bassoon simply because he had been told it was the most difficult instrument to master.
One afternoon, avoiding sports, I caught a London preview of Robert Bresson’s masterpiece A Man Escaped and talked endlessly about it. Tom’s response was: “Find out more.” I managed to arrange to see two earlier Bresson films at the Cinémathèque in Paris and Tom, whose French was impeccable, agreed to go with me. The result was a couple of articles by me in a small film magazine. Tom also translated a book on Bresson we bought in Paris but could not find a publisher.
Tom acknowledged my influence on his filmgoing in a catalogue for a Serpentine Gallery exhibition and I certainly owe him much more for those early promptings and help. He was, as they say, a force of nature.