Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
On this page: A FULLER LIFE | IRIS

< <
D O C S > >
last update 30.May.15
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
A Fuller Life
dir Samantha Fuller
scr Sam Fuller
prd Gillian Wallace Horvat
with James Franco, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bill Duke, Tim Roth, Jennifer Beals, William Friedkin, Wim Wenders, James Toback, Joe Dante, Buck Henry, Constance Towers
release US 6.Aug.14,
UK 15.May.15
13/US 1h19

A Fuller Life Taking an unusual approach to the biographical documentary, Samantha Fuller explores her father Sam's life through his own words, finding connections by reflecting his experiences in clips from his films. Unlike Sam Fuller's work, this film never remotely attempts to be journalistic, leaving more critical observations to someone else.

After a brief introduction, a series of actors and filmmakers appear on-screen to read chapters from Sam Fuller's autobiography, colourful anecdotes about his early life as a newsboy and freelance journalist, his experiences as an infantryman in World War II and his career in Hollywood. These are illustrated with a rich collection of archive footage and photographs, including recently unearthed film shot by Fuller himself, plus of course scenes from his movies that recreate his own experiences dramatically, often featuring the actors who are reading the stories.

There's nothing particularly flashy about the way Samantha Fuller assembles the film. It's edited in a straightforward way that allows each segment to stand on its own while working together to tell her father's life story through the prism of recollection, imagery and fiction. Being from Fuller's perspective, it of course never even tries to paint a bigger picture or put Fullers work into context. It only views the notoriously fiery filmmakers conflicts through his own eyes, so it's actually an autobiography rather than a true documentary.

This means that the film essentially works on just one level: as one man's account of his extraordinary life through the 20th century. His experiences are definitely of their time, pushing his way into the news business as a 12-year-old in 1924 New York, then writing screenplays in 1930s Hollywood before heading to fight in Europe, where he participated in amphibious assaults in Italy, North Africa and the Normandy beaches on D-Day, which he recreated in his passion project The Big Red One (1980).

Of course, it's also fascinating to see Fuller's notoriously fiery temperament from his point of view, including his clashes with the studios over his ahead-of-their-time attitudes toward racial issues and his too-honest depictions of war, violence and mental illness. This is a man who simply never accepted the status quo, punched down barriers and always did things the way he believed was right. And it's fascinating to see such deep respect for him burning in the eyes of the people who say his words on screen.

12 themes, language, violent imagery
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Albert Maysles
prd Jennifer Ash Rudick, Laura Coxson, Rebekah Maysles
with Iris Apfel, Carl Apfel, Bruce Weber, Dries van Noten, Duro Olowu, Alexis Bittar, Naeem Khan, Harold Koda, Margaret Russell, Tavi Gevinson, Jenny Lyons, Billy Apfel
iris apfel release US 29.Apr.15,
UK 31.Jul.15
14/US 1h23

See also
Bill CUnningham New York (2012)
Iris The late, great Albert Maysles turns his cameras on the 93-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel. Like Grey Gardens, this is a deeply personal exploration of a larger-than-life personality, tapping into pungent themes about American society without ever pushing the point. Packed with eye-catching images, this is a thoroughly engaging portrait: funny, enlightening and even moving.

Born in 1921, Iris studied art in New York and Wisconsin and launched a textile firm with her husband Carl that provided fabrics for nine US presidents. But it wasn't until 2005 that her distinct style started to gain attention, when her expansive collection of clothes and jewellery were exhibited at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. A ravenous collector of colourful and iconic items, she values individuality over everything else. "It's so lost these days," she says, moaning about people in cities who think they're trendy dressed all in black. "That's not style, it's a uniform."

With her oversized round glasses, Iris has such a big personality, and such a singular style, that we can't help but love her. She sees her style as a job, shopping for bargains and putting outfits together with oversized jewellery and ethnic pieces that combine eclectic textures and colours. "Another mad outfit," she laughs. Outspoken against plastic surgery, she was influenced by her eccentric mother, who she calls "a master with a scarf", and she sees a strong connection between politics, science and fashion.

Maysles shoots and edits the film with beautiful rhythms, quietly capturing Iris on camera without forcing her story into a structured outline. It's a bracingly honest portrait, unadorned to reveal Iris and Carl's enviable childlike attitudes towards life, which has kept their 67-year marriage from ever being boring. They also have amazing perspectives on growing older and setting priorities. And there are terrific sequences visiting their Palm Beach apartment, which is an awesome museum of kitsch art, and celebrating Carl's 100th birthday.

Along the way, the film is casually packed with meaning. Iris confesses that she's never felt pretty, but says that her success has been about having a confident style, not being beautiful. She had no intentions for her life, and has enjoyed watching it happen, understanding that the two greatest gifts in life are curiosity and humour. "You never really own anything," she notes, "you rent." So just have a bit of fun when you get dressed in the morning.

12 themes, language
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
The Man Who Saved the World
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Peter Anthony
prd Jakob Staberg
with Stanislav Petrov, Galina Kalinina, Kevin Costner, Sergey Shnyryov, Nataliya Vdovina, Oleg Kassin, Vilis Daudzins, Girts Jakovlevs, Walter Cronkite, Robert De Niro, Matt Damon, Ashton Kutcher
release US Oct.14 wiff,
UK 15.May.15
14/Denmark 1h45
The Man Who Saved the World In recounting a jaw-dropping story few have heard, this sharply well-made film is both riveting and important. Director Anthony uses dramatic scenes to recreate pivotal events that very nearly led to Earth's destruction, which adds weight to the otherwise engaging documentary about one man trying to make peace with his own history.

As Stanislav Petrov heads to New York with translator Galina Kalinina, he complains about much everything. At the UN to accept an award, he deflects comments about his heroism, reminding the audience that he was just the right man in the right place. But in 1983, Stanislav (played by Shnyryov) was on duty in Russia when computers spotted five nuclear missiles incoming from America. Protocol dictated that he needed to launch a retaliatory strike, but his cool head literally saved the world. And on his visit to America, he's overwhelmed that his favourite actors Coster and De Niro both want to thank him.

Filmmaker Anthony assembles this beautifully, shooting the 1983 sequences like a Cold War thriller, complete with complications back home with Petrov's critically ill wife (Vdovina). In the present-day scenes, we are drawn to Kalinina, who like us quickly tires of Petrov's incessant bitterness until she begins to see beneath it. Petrov is a wonderful movie character, a complex bundle of emotions and intelligence, with layers of likeability under that prickly surface. Especially as Kalinina tenaciously digs at his estrangement from his mother.

Anthony's cameras follow Petrov and Kalinina on their journey to New York and onwards to visit a missile silo in North Dakota, followed by Costner's film set. The camera work is seamless, beautifully tracking both their journey and their bristly interaction. Accompanied by Kristian Eidnes Andersen's evocative music, scenes explode with information that makes us gasp, building to both that staggeringly tense night in September 1983 and a detailed description of what nuclear war would look like.

But it doesn't stop there. The film continues to follow Petrov into his own personal Cold War, a sequence that feels a little off-topic but also carries a strong punch. And even with all of these momentous sequences, the film's most haunting moments are in Petrov's astute comments on the nature of humanity. Most pointedly the way Ronald Reagan stoked the flames of paranoia that almost ended mankind. And fact that it's impossible to protect the world from these insanely destructive weapons we created.

15 themes, language
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir Jake Witzenfeld
prd Ruth Cats, Jake Witzenfeld
with Khader Abu Seif, Fadi, Naeem, David, Nagham, Ruba, Maisam, Ruba
khader, naeem and fadi release UK Jun.15 sdf,
US Jun.15 laff
15/Israel 1h21

Oriented Beautifully assembled to capture the personalities of its three central figures, this important documentary skilfully slices through Tel Aviv's lively gay scene to reveal truths both about Israeli culture and global attitudes to homosexuality. Honestly, these guys would make a great reality TV series, because they have a lot to say about both politics and sexuality.

Three friends in Tel Aviv share a common background: they're Arab and gay, dealing with a range of cultural issues every day. In the face of societal pressure and stereotyping, they want to do something positive to help people who feel "other" like them, so they make a series of videos that they hope will go viral and encourage both Arabs and Jews to think. Meanwhile, they visit each one's home and also travel to Amman, which they see as a hopeful picture of how Israel could be if there was an end to the enmity between Jews and Palestinians: a nation for all of its citizens.

The smiley Khader (25) has been out for a decade, with a supportive family. He and his Armenian partner David are thinking about moving to more-tolerant Berlin. Fadi (26) had difficulty with his family when he out at 16, but his parents now accept him and understand why he remains in Tel Aviv ("Our village is totally primitive!" his mother says). And Naeem (24) calls himself "Palestinian, vegetarian, atheist and feminist" but is worried about coming out as gay, since his rural family expects him to return home, get married and have children.

It's fascinating to see such lively, secular Arab life within Israel, with modern attitudes to alcohol, sexuality and education. When Fadi falls for an Israeli soldier, he's not horrified because the guy is Jewish but because he won't admit that Arabs are an oppressed minority. And there are surges of emotion throughout, such as when Fadi's father expresses that his son should live freely. Khader has never had that kind of support or understanding from his father. And Naeem is terrified of how his parents will react when he tells them.

Director Witzenfeld assembles this with energetic humour, sharp editing and great music. He also continually captures honest moments among these young men as they grapple with the ethnicity and sexuality that make them feel like outsiders. They chatter openly about personal issues, maintaining positive energy even though they're not optimistic that Israel can become a nation for Jews, Arabs and Christians alike. They also struggle with relationships, revel in breaking taboos and desperately want to help others like them.

15 themes, language
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < D O C S > >

© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall