Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2013)
HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION is a mesmerizing, impressionistic portrait of the iconic actor comprised of intimate moments, film clips from some of his 250 films and his own heart-breaking renditions of American folk songs. Stunningly lensed in color and black and white by Seamus McGarvey, the film explores the actor's enigmatic outlook on his life, his unexploited talents as a musician, and includes candid reminiscences by David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Sam Shepard, Kris Kristofferson and Debbie Harry. The fragile soul of an actor emerges from the poignant collage. Uncensored, unguarded moments with wry humor pockmark scenes filmed at locations including Stanton's home and his favorite local watering hole, Dan Tana's in West Hollywood. Stanton discusses his friends Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, how his family influenced his musical leanings, the women he almost wed, and his preference for film over theatre. In the end it is an unflinching, unabashed, romantic Valentine from one artist to another, from a galvanizing truth teller to a yarn-spinning survivor. (c) Adopt … More
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Critic Reviews for Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction
Laconic, lost in memory but focused, Stanton slowly opens up to filmmaker-interviewer Sophie Huber.
It adds up to an unexpectedly moving portrait of a maverick at twilight.
Harry Dean Stanton is a marvelous actor and, at least from a visual standpoint, a marvelous camera subject. He's not much of a talker, though.
At the film's heart is a fitful conversation that unfolds like a string of koans, epigrams, jokes and silences. And songs.
Huber responds to Stanton's languid opacity in ways both inspired... and insipid.
Stanton isn't interested in giving away the details of his life and career, and no one's going to lure them out of him.
The artist and the art are inseparable. Stanton is a man content in the "nothing" he's carved out for himself.
Refreshingly stylish and enigmatic. It brings out Harry Dean Stanton's warmth, humility and sense of humor.
Alternating between color footage and the genius interplay of startlingly lovely sequences of Stanton singing and playing harmonica in granular black-and-white, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction perfectly captures the essence of the man.
As he does in his roles, Stanton opens himself up to the camera in a way that has the indelible stamp of truth, an almost fragile sense of honesty.
An insightful, well-constructed exploration of the sad-eyed character actor's life and career.
It's a little frustrating at first to realize that Huber isn't going to get much explanation of anything from Stanton. But she ends up making a virtue of the actor's Zen calm...He's so present, it's as though he's burned into the screen.
This moody, soulful, music-drenched documentary on the great character actor uses movie clips, his singing, and shards of conversation to create its dark-hued portrait of zen survival. A real treat for those in the know.
Though occasionally aesthetically alluring and evocative, feels like an introductory chapter to a more substantive, sprawling study of the actor.
Audience Reviews for Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction
Impressionistic pastiche of the career of cult character actor Harry Dean Stanton (PARIS, TEXAS; REPO MAN), with terse interviews, conversations with collaborators like David Lynch and Kris Kristofferson, film clips, and lots of folksinging from Stanton (whose voice is just OK). Stanton cultivates a mystical persona and prefers to give vague, Zen-like answers to questions, so the film struggles mightily to build a portrait of the real man behind the image. The ratio of insight to folk songs is unfavorable.More
A fascinating documentary based on one of the longest running actors around; Harry Dean Stanton. While giving information on his famous acting career, the real focus in this feature is his lesser known career as a country singer. And he's a very good one indeed. The film talks of how most of how most of his songs reflect certain aspects of his life and you can really see and hear the emotion as he sings each lyric. I also admire how they point out one of Stanton's specialities, as an actor, of how he doesn't think on his lines and pretty much presents them so naturally that they don't feel scripted. As a fan of Harry Dean Stanton, I went to see it during the Sensoria Film Festival weekend, and I more than appreciated it. Even if you don't know very much on Stanton, this documentary is still worth a try if you want to learn more on this superb musician/actor.More
Legendary character actor, Harry Dean Stanton, is not the most obvious choice of subject for a documentary. Most often stoic, even in his seemingly endless film appearances, his lack of any sort of outgoing personality wouldn't seem to make for a compelling movie. The opposite, however, is true. Hauntingly shot by the great cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey (ATONEMENT, ANNA KARENINA, THE HOURS) and intimately directed by Sophie Huber, HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION is a look at a famous person who refuses to be a fame whore. A great companion piece to GOOD OL' FRIEDA, about the Beatles' secretary, who refused to sell out, here's a deceptively simple doc about a man who reveals so much by revealing so little. NEBRASKA also comes to mind here, as both seem to be studies in elderly people who mourn the loss of a world where restraint was a virtue. Kinda puts every sass-talking, finger-wagging reality star to shame, no?
At age 87, Stanton may be old, but he's never really changed. He merely grew into the face he's always had, and he's remained the man he's always aspired towards. Virtually free of ego, when asked how he wants to be remembered, he tellingly replies, "Doesn't matter". Instead, Stanton reveals himself through the many haunting folk songs he sings in the film. In startlingly beautiful close-up, sometimes passionately playing harmonica, Huber proves that a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
More expressionistic portrait than true documentary, the film interweaves scenes from his long career with his singing and with interviews/conversations with his collaborators, such as David Lynch, Wim Wenders, and others. Try as they may to get him to open up, Stanton remains true to himself - genial, reserved and keenly aware that his life story is written all over his face. Sure, this is fairly thin, slow, and lacking in any real incident, but it's kind of the point.
Side Note: I had the honor of working with Harry Dean Stanton many years ago on a small indie called TWISTER (not the Helen Hunt/Bill Paxton blockbuster). I was the Production Accountant and my interactions with him with limited to "Here's your per diem, sir". His response, "Thank you." I think he spoke with me more than he did with the director!
While this may not be the most substantial documentary going, it is also a pretty good time spent in the company of the cult character actor and that has to be worth something. Luckily, the documentary is able to get a few facts out of Stanton who is very reluctant to talk about his personal life(there are a few clues from the snapshots seen on his wall), again proving how lively David Lynch can make any interview. So, we find out that Stanton was in the navy, never married, and may have 1, 2 or 3 kids out there somewhere. Otherwise, we could have guessed that living with Jack Nicholson is never a dull moment. At least, we do get to hear Stanton singing, which he regrets not pursuing fully as a career, and also see in film clips. While a good deal of time is spent discussing "Paris, Texas," a rare starring vehicle, the oddest sight is that of a clean shaven Kris Kristofferson from "Cisco Pike."More
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