It’s difficult to know what to believe. Was R D Laing a thoroughly humane figure driven to ruin by the inhumanity he found in the world around him? Or did he ultimately betray the early brilliance he showed in astoundingly original early works like The Divided Self by lapsing into the role of lazy charlatan in the hippy sixties and seventies?
Whatever the truth of it, he’s on especially fine form in this critical look at the culture of his native city, Glasgow. If you can bear to go beyond the agonisingly slow playing music on this copy, then the breadth of Laing’s vision, and his careful nurturing of his subject to bring out its nuance, is mightily impressive. Nonetheless, are there not hints even here of a crumbling into sentimentality? –‘The centre of reality is where one’s heart is’- he tells us as an envoi of sorts, and right there we just get that feeling that he’s pushed his charismatic boat too far out, man.