This So-Called Disaster (2004)
In 2000, director Michael Almereyda brought his film crew to San Francisco to document the rehearsal process for the Magic Theater's production of Sam Shepard's play +The Late Henry Moss, as directed by the playwright himself. The resulting film, This So-Called Disaster, is partly a study of the magic of theater, as well as a study of the fascinating Shepard, who is nearly universally considered one of the most influential American dramatists of the past century. Shepard and Almereyda's first collaboration came via the former's adaptation of Hamlet, in which Shepard played the part of the Ghost of Hamlet's father. Shepard, in turn, invited Almereyda to film the rehearsal process for his latest play, +The Late Henry Moss, a 16-year labor of love for Shepard that relates a fictional recounting of the playwright's own relationship with his late father. Following the cast -- which includes such luminaries as Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Cheech Marin, and Woody Harrelson -- and the crew until the production's opening night, Almereyda observes the minutiae involved in leading up to the first curtain, as well as some private moments with Shepard as he recounts some of his personal history as related to +The Late Henry Moss. This So-Called Disaster was included in the programs for the 2003 Rotterdam International Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. … More
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Critic Reviews for This So-Called Disaster
Will appeal mostly to those who love theater and relish the opportunity to see a production being built, scene by scene.
Consistently engrossing, with nary a dull moment, and very enlightening on what is popularly called "the actor's process."
Lets us hang out with, and really meet for the first time, artists we thought we already knew.
In its vision of the push-and-pull of rehearsal and the revelation of how a play comes to breathing, snorting life onstage, Almereyda's video brings us close to the act of creation.
In the end, what takes shape is not just a significant unraveling of Shepard's taciturn mystique, but a potent sense of the pain and rigor of revealing oneself through art.
Ultimately, you leave This So-Called Disaster with renewed respect for Shepard, who comes off as a kind of quiet hero: a man of words, confronting his past with little fuss, and from it creating a legacy.
As a portrait of a collaborative artist at work, the film is an invaluable document, not to be missed by anyone with more than a passing interest in theater.
Theater lovers are likely to find the film interesting even when it zigs and zags.
It's fun to see actors doing what they do and to see them through the eyes of a director.
Not as insightful as Topsy-Turvy or Vanya on 42nd Street about the process of putting on a show, it's nonetheless a fascinating meeting of the minds.
One imagines that Almereyda thought he could simply act as a fly on the wall ... and have a compelling document on the creation of live theater.
Anyone interested in the challenges and techniques of acting -- which is really to say, anyone interested in human behavior -- should turn off E! and head down to Film Forum, where Mr. Almereyda's film opens today.
The details of Shepard's life ... are fascinating, particularly to fans.
Almereyda's movie is riveting for several reasons: its inside look at Shepard in action, its vivid account of how a challenging play is brought from printed page to public stage, and its glimpses of Shepard's troubled youth.
Audience Reviews for This So-Called Disaster
[font=Century Gothic]"This So-Called Disaster" is a documentary directed by Michael Almereyda about the 2000 San Francisco production of Sam Shepard's play,"The Late Henry Moss", which was inspired by his father's life. Shepard directed Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson, James Gannon, Cheech Marin and Sheila Tousey(what a cast!) in the play. The documentary shows the rehearsal process and sheds a good deal of light on how the actors created their performances for the stage. We also get to see how a play is directed. There are thoughts here on what it means to be a father and what it means to be a son, too.[/font]More
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