I’m guessing you read Ashley West’s tribute to Radley Metzger at the Rialto Report. I’d love to tell you about meeting Radley. It’s sort of a saga though, so I’ll start in the middle.
…of this party celebrating Catherine Robbe-Grillet and Toni Bentley, where a well-groomed British man walked over and asked if I’d like to meet Radley Metzger. The Image was one of Radley’s films, and he’d worked with Toni on a few things. He was still living in New York. And sitting on a couch in the next room.
After I began wondering how a person who is questioning the integrity of their reality testing might verify it, but before I’d gone too far down that rabbit hole, I said yes. A few minutes later Ashley had volunteered to coordinate lunch.
We met at a diner in midtown. Pretty shortly after we’d ordered, Radley told a story about filming in the former Yugoslavia. He’d had a crew from all over Europe and if the day went too far into overtime the set would become Tower of Babel-esque. (Or, you know, whichever Why We Have Many Languages myth you favor.)
Radley knew how to quickly find points of commonality and use them to develop a rapport. Trust between performer and director is integral to good work, so it serves a director well to start building it early on. His life had been so fantastical that he could dig up a personal anecdote for any occasion, and he shared those stories freely.
Mostly, though, we talked about arnica. It’s odd, I googled “radley metzger arnica” and didn’t get a single result containing all three words—but that man loved arnica.
Radley swore by it for inflammation and was quick to follow up with a reminder that inflammation is linked to stress and poor health in a sort of vicious triangle. I happened to swear by it for bruises—and abrasions when mixed in petroleum jelly.
(I’m going to go one step past “This is not medial advice” here and proceed directly to “you probably really shouldn’t go rubbing mildly toxic flowers and basically K-Y into broken skin and it’s a miracle I haven’t developed unsettlingly neon patches or something.”)
He’d either made or begun a documentary on arnica, and spoke at length about his visits to the European mountains the plant grows on.
Radley was active and lucid through his 80s, and while I’m sad to have missed the chance to work with him I’m happy to have participated in the fun he seemed to have thinking about it. And it may be for the best that he left before he felt like he had nothing else to give.