Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

James Clayden
b. 1947, Melbourne, Australia.

BIOGRAPHY:   James Clayden is one of Melbourne's more noteworthy artistic figures, prolific in painting, sculpture, performance, theatre and filmmaking since the early '70s.

As a fine artist, he has exhibited in nearly 50 group and solo shows, and his work is held in numerous collections, including Australian National Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. He completed Art & Design at Preston Institute of Technology in 1979, taught Painting & Drawing at Phillip Institute of Technology in 1990-91, and taught Interior Design & Architecture at RMIT University in 2000-03. He also designed several public glass walls in the late '90s, for RMIT and Spencer Street Footbridge and Melb Convention Centre.


As a performer and theatre director, he has a long association with La Mama Theatre, being part of numerous shows there since the early '70s. In recent times, he directed two Barry Dickins plays there, Go in Tight (2001) and Claustrophobia (2003), as well as directing works written by others such as Alison Croggon and Jordie Albiston, as well as staging his own works, such as MACBETH X (2002) and The Man Who Lost His Head (2003).

As a filmmaker, he had a productive first phase, through the '70s and '80s, making numerous Super 8 and 16mm films (some, like Corpse, 1982, ambitious in scope), culminating in the two stylistically different features - The Hour Before My Brother Dies (1986), an ABC telemovie written by Daniel Keene, and awarded a 'Rockie' for Best Telemovie at the BANFF TV Awards in Canada, and With Time to Kill (1987), a low-budget punky genre exercise, which screened at numerous festivals and got a worldwide video release.

In the '90s, Clayden worked on several feature-length projects, such as Escape from Evil, Unidentified Woman, and an adaption of John Embling's book Fragmented Lives, without being able to bring any of them to the screen.

In the new millennium, however, he resurrected his career with a series of confident experimental projects. The Ghost Paintings 1-4 (2002-03) and HAMLET X (2003) screened to critical acclaim at Rotterdam, Buenos Aires and Melbourne International Film Festivals. These were then followed by The Marey Project (2005) and The Desealer (2006).

His productivity then slowed down again after 2007, but has now picked up in recent years (2013 to 2018).

With Time to Kill

CRITICAL OVERVIEW:   James Clayden's The Hour Before My Brother Dies (1986), like his other work (Corpse, 1982; The Ghost Paintings, 1986; With Time to Kill, 1987) is an idiosyncratic mix of wildly different cinematic heritages: on one hand, the dark, meditative, complexly textured visionary tradition of Werner Herzog and Andrei Tarkovsky; and on another the savage, streetwise, metallic action-ambience of Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott.

In fact, Clayden achieves a kind of formal abstraction (of sound, movement and colour) with grittily concrete materials (stone, bodies, streets) that corresponds very closely to the old Cahiers dreams of mise-en-scene: a pure song of cinema fashioned out of the visible and audible materials of everyday reality. From Clayden's imagined marriage of forms, a new form is thus born.

The Hour Before My Brother Dies employs a quite magical conception of character and performance. The actors are allowed to move through a psychodrama in which they are in turn themselves and other people (such as their parents), puncturing the seamless continuum of the dramatic present (the hour of the title) with the sudden re-living of the past.

In Clayden's conception of cinema, avant-garde theatrics meet one of the most traditional of fictional forms, one beloved from classic Hollywood cinema: melodrama. Like the musical, the melodrama is one of the truest, most apt cinema forms (as any cinephile could tell you). For it is a form which provides abundantly for the clash of contradictions and the release of energies, reaching insight through catharsis.

The Ghost Paintings 2

Adrian Martin, Back of Beyond, 1988 (see reference in Bibliography below)

James Clayden is an exemplary artist ... He has been a major figure in Australian culture for almost 30 years ...

Clayden's film and video pieces revel in mood, texture, fleeting association. Indecipherable fragments of narrative and powerful moments of performance appear and disappear in a swirl of shapes and colours. The energy of the editing is palpable.

Clayden's highly poetic film and video work can be cryptic, but it wields an immediate, sensory impact. He has often spoken of his desire to "undo the layers of the physical world" in order to uncover the "essential form".

Adrian Martin, The Age, 2002 (see reference in Bibliography below)



Before Monday 1/2/3 (1971, 60 mins; or 20 mins x 3 screen projections, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

Antarctica (1972, 60 mins, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

Persona (1973, 15 mins, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

More than Ever (1973, 20 mins, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

Workstitle (1975, 90 mins, Digital Video, originally 16mm)

From Antarctica to Ayers Rock, various pieces (1976, 60 mins, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

Incomparables (1976, 60 mins, Digital Video, originally 16mm)

With Moves (1977, 20 minutes) Digital Video (originally Super 8)

With Time to Kill

Back to Back (1978, 20 mins, 16mm)

Echoes (1981, 30 mins, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

Corpse (1982, 112 mins, 16mm)

Peking (1983, 20 mins, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

Desperate Dancing (1983, 18 mins, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

The Hour Before My Brother Dies (1986, 76 mins, 1" video, shot on 16mm)
ABC-TV telemovie, written by Daniel Keene

The Ghost Paintings (1986, 16 mins, Digital Video, originally Super 8)

With Time to Kill (1987, 75 mins, 1" video)


The Ventriloquist (1987, 20 mins, 16mm)

The Other Side of the Door (2000, 20 mins, Digital Video)
combined video/performance

The Ghost Paintings 2 (2002, 15 mins, Digital Video)

The Ghost Paintings 3 (2002, 20 mins, Digital Video)

The Ghost Paintings 1 (2003, 10 mins, Digital Video)

The Ghost Paintings 4 (2003, 15 mins, Digital Video)

HAMLET X (2003, 118 mins, Digital Video)

The Marey Project (2005, 87 mins, Digital Video)

The Desealer (2006, 60 mins, Digital Video)

in absentia (2007, 4 mins, 30 secs, 35mm/Digital Video)

In The Middle of The Air (2013, 42 mins, 30 secs, Digital Video)

55 PHASES OF LOOKING (2018, 53 mins, 7 seconds, Digital Video)

GLASLOUGH 64 (2018, 2 mins, 53 secs, Digital Video)

Work In Progress:
Preludes & Postscripts digital video 50 - 60

The Ghost Paintings 3


'To This End: From the Violence of the Chair' Cantrills Filmnotes, August 1980

HEMENSLEY, Kris 'James Clayden's Corpse' Cantrills Filmnotes, November 1982

NICOLL, John 'Clayden: from Corpse to Corpses' Filmnews, November 1985

'Experimental Violence' The Age, 20 December 1985

'The Hour Before My Brother Dies' Geelong Advertiser 26 September 1986

'Peter Hehirstars. . .' Bendigo Advertiser 30 September 1986

MURDOCH, Anna 'Sexual Chemistry' The Age, 2 October 1986

MURDOCH, Anna 'Corpse Leads to Hanging' The Age, 2 October 1986

With Time to Kill

LIVINGSTONE, Ian Television - The Herald, 3 October 1986

DEAN, Peter 'Death Cell Drama' Courier Mail, Queensland, 3 October 1986

FRASER, John 'Telemovie Tackles the Topic of Incest' The Sun, 3 October 1986

HUTCHINSON, Garrie 'The Hour Before My Brother Dies' The Age, 9 October 1986

'The Ghost Paintings' Melbourne Film Festival - Filmnews October 1986

'The Ghost Paintings' Cantrills Filmnotes No 51-52 December 1986

ROURKE, Nicky 'Corpse' Beat 22-23 December 1986

HOOKS, Barbara 'Actor leaves the gravy train for a purer track' The Age 4 March 1987

BISHOP, R and CAPUTO, R 'Exotic films in plush surrounds' The Age 5 June 1987

'ABC Drama takes out Rockie' New York AAP Sunday Observer 14 June 1987

MIMA Catalogue - National Tour, 1987

MURRAY-SMITH, Joanna 'With Time to Kill' Cinema Papers, November 1987

'The Making of With Time to Kill' Taking Care of Business, AFC 1988

DERMODY, S and JACKA, E The Imaginary Industry: Aust Film in the Late '80s 1988

MARTIN, Adrian Back of Beyond UCLA, US October-November 1988

'Final show for Image Makers' The Melbourne Times 22 October 1988

THOMAS, K 'Back of Beyond Series- Splendid Diversity' Los Angeles Times 3 Nov 1988

DERMODY, Susan 'The Company of Eccentrics' Filmnews, December 1988

MORDUE, Mark 'James Clayden: Killing Them Softly' Rolling Stone, April 1989

CRAWFORD, Ashley 'Surface Drama: From Cinema to Canvas' Tension, Oct 1989

DALY, Mark 'Portrait of an artist and his floorboards' The Age, 12 May 1990

LANCASHIRE, Rebecca 'Inside the Mystery of Inheritance and Time' The Age, July 1992

GARDNER, Geoff 'Corpse' Australian Film (1978-1992) Scott Murray (ed.) Oxford University Press 1993

'With Time to Kill' Australian Film (1978-1992) Scott Murray (ed.) Oxford University Press 1993

Celluloid Heroes - History of Australian Cinema 1895 - 1996 CD- ROM / Website 1997

FLAUS, John and HARRIS, Paul 'Buffs Choice' The Age, 15 May 1997

CRAWFORD, Anne 'Magnificent obsession' The Age, 11 April, 1998

MARTIN, Adrian 'Making work on the ghost of a chance', The Age, 18 September 2002

James Clayden, September 2018.

Contact James Clayden

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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis