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!