“The Pigeon Tunnel”, a documentary, will be released on Apple TV on October 20, 2023. It is produced by Fourth Floor Production’s Academy Award-winning Errol Morris and The Ink Factory’s Dominic Crossley-Holland, Steven Hathaway, Simon Cornwell and Stephen Cornwell, and executive produced by Hossein Amino, P.J. van Sandwijk, Michael Lesslie, Joe Tsai, Arthur Wang, Michele Wolkoff and Katherine Butler.
This is the story of former British spy David Cornwell whom most of the world knows as John le Carré, author of such classic espionage novels as “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “The Constant Gardener.” This is le Carré’s last interview which is very unusual in its pacing, filming, and intimacy. The story takes place over six decades. The film is immediately captivating in its use of rare archival footage and dramatized vignettes. As le Carré’s story slowly and deliberately moves along, his charm and magnetism offer an engaging exploration of his extraordinary journey and the paper-thin membrane between fact and fiction.
I found the interview remarkable. The two voices were almost symphonic, one flat and robotic and faceless and John le Carré, very much in view, ironic, thoughtful and totally charming. As the questions moved along with an almost haunting quality, the film was enhanced by music composed by Philip Glass and sections of le Carré’s writings with playbills and posters from his books and films. It was hypnotic.
What is the story? It is one that is told over and over recreating his personal story as he imagined it might be, wanted it to be or didn’t want it to be. His memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life (2016) provided a background. As questions begin, he speaks of endless betrayal, betrayed as a child and then betraying others. Pretense was everything and then imagination.
As the questions continue, the real story is matched to the stories in some of his books. He talks about the Cold War and real spies working at the time. He mentions that by the time a spy develops needed skills he/she has passed their prime and is on the way out. As the interview draws to a close le Carré reflects on the influence his work has had on the field of spy books and accepts that his work is art and he is, in fact, an artist. I don’t think you will find his fans in disagreement.
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Director: Errol Morris (“The Fog of War,” “The Thin Blue Line”)
Producers: Errol Morris, Dominic Crossley-Holland, Steven Hathaway, Simon Cornwell and Stephen Cornwell