IT AIN’T OVER (2023, doc)

May 25, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. In a perfect world we would judge each other by character, personality, integrity, and accomplishments. Unfortunately, too many still judge the book by its cover, and therein lies the only explanation for why Yogi Berra was not on the field at the 2015 All-Star game with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, and Johnny Bench as one of the greatest living players. Berra, though he never cut the imposing athletic figure as those players, certainly fulfilled the four attributes listed above … including his accomplishments in the very game that was offering tribute to the greats of the game. Director Sean Mullin expertly proceeds to prove that Lorenzo Pietro “Yogi” Berra was not just one of the best baseball players of all-time, he was also a war hero, beloved father, grandfather, husband, public figure, and above all, a world-class person.

What Mr. Mullin does to elevate this documentary is not just focus on Yogi’s fabulous career as a player, but also on the rest of his life. This allows us to understand what a special man he was. Yogi’s granddaughter Lindsay frequently pops up for commentary, and she makes it abundantly clear that while Yogi learned to accept being baseball’s most overlooked superstar, she certainly has not. After all, Berra is the all-time leader in World Series championships as a player with 10, and has 13 rings total, including his time coaching. He was an 18 time All-Star and was voted onto the All-Century team. Remarkably, Yogi caught both ends of 117 doubleheaders in his career, and of course, caught Don Larsen’s World Series Perfect Game. As a New York Yankees player and coach, his presence in pinstripes linked the careers of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and Don Mattingly.

Those are some of the pieces of a life that are indelibly linked to baseball history, and in this documentary, we learn even more. He grew up on the same St Louis street as (another future major league catcher) Joe Garagiola, and the Branch Rickey story involving the two is fascinating. After signing with the Yankees for $500, Berra enlisted in the Navy, and found himself in the middle of the Normandy landings. Lindsay recounts the story of why Berra never received his Purple Heart, and the process she went through to ensure that he received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was married to Carmen for 65 years, and they raised three sons, Dale (a Major Leaguer), Tim, and Larry. The story of how Carmen named Dale is one of the highlights of the film.

Lest you buy into the image of Yogi as the cartoon character (Yogi Bear) in Yellowstone, or the lovable post-career pitchman for Amtrak, Aflac, YooHoo, and Miller Lite, pay particular attention to the segment on Jackie Robinson’s steal of home in the World Series. This will clue you in on what an intense competitor Yogi was – helping to explain his incredible track record of winning. Of course, none of this is meant to minimize Yogi’s creative use of the English language. He became iconic for his malapropisms … often referred to as “Yogiisms”. This includes the famous one from which this film’s title was derived, “It ain’t over till it’s over” … right up there with “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

Berra’s rift with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is analyzed, leaving us respecting Yogi’s years-long stance over being disrespected. Their eventual make-up led to an incredible “Yogi Berra Day” at Yankee Stadium, where the game remarkably lived up to the pre-game moment when Don Larsen threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi. Director Mullin capitalizes on a long stream of former teammates, opponents, players, writers, and family members to provide insight into Yogi Berra. There is little doubt even more would have loved to contribute, as much in the way Yogi gives credit to Hall of Famer Bill Dickey for tutoring him on catching, so many are anxious to offer stories on how Yogi Berra influenced them. Let’s end this with more of Yogi’s wisdom. “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” And when it comes to this excellent and entertaining documentary from Sean Mullin, keep in mind that “You can observe a lot by watching.”

Opens in theaters on May 26, 2023



May 25, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. It’s borderline unfathomable that someone who has worked for almost 20 years as a cinematographer and a decade as a TV director could be “unfamiliar” with the work and career of one of the industry giants, yet that’s the claim of director James Adolphus (“Soul of a Nation” mini-series) when it comes to Mary Tyler Moore. His film does play a bit as if he’s opening a Christmas present that everyone else in the room knows what’s under the wrapping, and it’s because of this, the film works as not just a retrospective of her career, but also a tribute to a woman who influenced so many.

“The Dick Van Dyke Show” ran for 158 episodes between 1961 and 1966, and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ran for 168 episodes between 1970 and 1977. These were two immensely popular shows during their respective eras, and because of her characters in each, Mary Tyler Moore spent time as both America’s favorite wife and America’s favorite single woman. These characters were cutting edge (for different reasons) for their time. Director Adolphus also provides insight into her childhood and early career. Mary was first married in 1954, not long after high school graduation. She found work as ‘Happy Hotpoint’, the dancer on Hotpoint advertisements, and clips of the ads are included here. Even after she became a world-famous actor, she remained a dancer at heart.

Betty Friedan and “The Feminine Mystique” are referenced a few times, and the point is made, even if it’s in a subtle manner, that Mary’s impact on feminism has long been overlooked. We hear from such industry folks as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ed Asner, James L Brooks, and Treva Silverman, as well as friends and family, but it’s really Mary herself that we see on screen for the vast majority of the two-hour run time. In particular, a loose structure is formed from clips of her appearances on “The David Susskind Show” and an interview with Rona Barrett. These segments allow for some rare personal insight into Mary Tyler Moore as a person.

So many rare pictures, clips, and home movies are included that we easily follow a career that spanned 50 years … and three marriages. The first marriage produced her only child. The second marriage, to Grant Tinker, resulted in MTM Productions and her greatest professional success. However, it was the third marriage to Dr. Robert Levine, where she found true and long-lasting love, as well as the motivation to find herself with a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic for rehab in 1984. We learn of her Broadway redemption with “Whose Life is it, anyway?”, after her setback on stage many years earlier with a musical “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. Probably the most surprising segment here revolves around the original pilot for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” … it has great video and behind-the- scenes scoop.

Given her comedic chops displayed in her two most famous sitcoms, many of us were caught off guard with her Oscar nominated performance in Robert Redford’s ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980). What we discover here is that Mary’s personal life was nearly as rosy as Laura Petrie’s or Mary Richards’, and many real-life personal losses allowed her to reveal a bit more of her true self on screen. Most of us know that Mary was the female lead in Elvis Presley’s final feature film, CHANGE OF HABIT (1969), but we might not have known that Carl Reiner was her comedy hero, or that her own struggles with diabetes (over decades) led her to become International Chairperson of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). For one who seemed to constantly define the contemporary woman, Mary Tyler Moore’s story is impressive, and her personal archives bring more meaning to “Love is All Around.”

Beginning May 26, 2023, the documentary will air on HBO and stream on MAX



May 12, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. With his Oscar winning AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006), and follow-ups including WAITING FOR SUPERMAN (2010) and HE NAMED ME MALALA (2015), Davis Guggenheim has proven to be one of the most important and effective documentarians working today. With his latest, he adds a creative touch that blends well with the emotional and personal aspects of this Michael J Fox biography.

Most everyone recognizes Michael J Fox as the popular actor from the BACK TO THE FUTURE franchise and/or his enormously successful TV series, “Family Ties” and “Spin City”. Along the way, there were numerous other films and appearances, and at one point in the 1980’s, he was likely the most recognized actor on the planet thanks to his box office winning movies, highly-rated TV series, countless magazine covers, and regular Talk Show appearances. On top of all that, in 1988, he married the love of his life, actress Tracy Pollan. He truly had it all.

A trembling pinkie signaled a life-changing event for Fox. At age 29, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease … a disease that typically strikes elderly folks, not otherwise healthy young adults in their physical prime years. For years, he was able to hide his symptoms by timing his medication and disguising his left-hand trembles – either by holding an item or keeping the hand stuffed in his pocket.

The creative parts of Guggenheim’s film are that he eschews traditional talking heads – and rest assured, there would be a stream of celebrities willing to talk about Fox – and the use of cool editing by cutting in clips of Fox’s acting roles into the stories as Fox tells them. That’s right … as Michael J Fox tells his own story. He is his own talking head in this film, and it works brilliantly to allow him to show us his sense of humor remains intact, and that he has learned to deal with the obstacles this disease throws at him. We even see his struggle to get toothpaste on his toothbrush. Yet none of this is designed to elicit sympathy for Fox. Oh no, he will have none of that.

We learn his patented perpetual movement dates back to childhood, and are reminded that he was often seen sprinting or moving quickly in his roles … movements he can no longer execute. In fact, his falls are often brutal, sometimes resulting in broken bones and a broken face (pins in his hand and eye socket). Michael J Fox is a 5-time Emmy winner who has been married to Tracy for 35 years. They share four kids and the obstacles created by Parkinson’s. Guggenheim includes a wonderful story regarding a lunch box and Brandon Tartikoff, the wunderkind President of NBC who initially was opposed to Fox being cast in “Family Ties”. The presentation of Fox’s workaholic nature is on full display during the sequence on his simultaneously filming “Family Ties” and BACK TO THE FUTURE.

Michael J Fox telling us his own story makes this so personal. He admits to “waiting for the bus” … a phrase he copped to describe waiting for the dopamine meds to kick in. He is one of the very few to live more than half their life with Parkinson’s Disease, and his sharing the obstacles for all to see is commendable, even if he forbids us from pity.

Opens May 12, 2023


32 SOUNDS (2023, doc)

April 27, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. We tend to believe that we are either participating in an activity (cooking a meal, riding a bike, playing a sport, etc), or sitting idly as a spectator (watching TV, listening to the radio, attending a kid’s play, etc). However, documentarian Sam Green is here to prove that there is another option, participatory listening. This is the action of listening “with”, rather than listening “to” … being fully present and attuned as you take in and process the vibrations of life occurring all around you. This could be a babbling stream, the rustling of leaves, or even the grinding of icemaker gears in your ten-year-old refrigerator. OK, Mr. Green doesn’t mention that last one, but you get the point.

Whether Director Green, whose 2003 documentary THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND was nominated for an Oscar, would agree with this being described as ‘experimental’ filmmaking, it’s clearly a different approach. At SXSW, he had an experiential set-up for viewers, and he recommends headphones for full effect. At a minimum, the film deserves an elite sound system, and some audience participation (closing of eyes, etc).

Most movie lovers appreciate when sound effects are used effectively and creatively, but Green is not just interested in the use of sound in cinema, but also in everyday settings. We get a clip of a ‘bad educational film’ used in schools to explain the physiology of the inner ear, and he even uses a whoopee cushion to make a point about ‘funny’ sounds and the expectations we have for specific sounds. We see Foley artist Joanna Fang creating sounds, and how her ‘cheat’ sounds are often more readily accepted than the real thing due to those expectations.

Annea Lockwood, the subject of Green’s 2021 documentary short, has spent a lifetime making and analyzing different sounds. She’s now 81 years old and studies the difference of underwater vs surface level sounds at a river, and the value of listening ‘with’, rather than listening ‘to’. She also shares her favorite quote from Roman Poet Ovid, “Everything changes, and nothing is lost”. This quote ties into the theory of Charles Babbage who suggested that all sounds throughout history are still floating in the air, and that we might be able to recapture those – meaning nothing is lost.

Green isn’t fully committed to numbering the 32 sounds for us, although it seems like the number is easily exceeded during the runtime. There is a fascinating story about how the last surviving bird of its species repeatedly sent out a mating call, one which could no longer be answered. Most of us love the sound of waves crashing, but how about the striking of a match, or the whoosh of a golf ball being struck? And of course, Green touches on music and how it can bring back the memory of a certain moment. One premise is that it can be easier to hear if you can’t see, so there are a few segments where we are asked to close our eyes. Mostly this helps us realize that not only should we stop and smell the roses, we should also stop and listen to them … or even the ‘room tone.’

A nationwide rollout of the film begins April 28, 2023 at Film Forum in NYC.



April 21, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. Good golly! Documentarian Lisa Cortes packs a lot into this profile of Richard Wayne Penniman, better known as Little Richard. Director Cortes sticks with a familiar structure for the biopic; however, two things stood out to me about this documentary: it features remarkably little music for a musical doc, and it works well for both those who are very familiar with the legendary performer and those needing an introduction.

In cradle-to-grave fashion, we learn about Richard’s mother and father, and that he was one of 12 children in the family from Macon, Georgia. Plenty of photographs and clips from the era are included, and things really kick in when the history of “Tutti Frutti” is discussed. Shifting a bit from its original meaning, Little Richard served up a searing version that shocked many. But what shocked him is that much tamer versions from Elvis and especially Pat Boone outsold his. I particularly enjoyed learning that Little Richard picked up his famous scream from gospel singer Marion Williams.

Ms. Cortes utilizes many interviews by Little Richard himself to cover his complex life filled with contradictions and new paths. His father kicked him out of the house for being gay, setting him up for a lifetime of searching for his true identity. Richard’s track included pushing the early boundaries of rock and roll, pushing further boundaries in the world of queerness, exploring many facets of religion and attempting to balance his belief in the bible with his love of orgies, and his lifelong search for a true identity.

It was the 1956 film, THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT, that provided most people’s first glance of Little Richard performing. The same can be said for Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, and Gene Vincent, among others, but none had the impact or the look and music of Little Richard. His many hits after “Tutti Frutti” included “Long Tall Sally”, “Lucille”, and of course, “Good Golly, Miss Molly”. It’s fascinating to hear Mick Jagger, John Waters, Tom Jones, and others provide the acknowledgment of Little Richard’s influence, however, even more interesting is listening to Little Richard himself walk us through his various stages of being. This is a man who, lacking an ounce of humility, proclaims, “I’m the one who started it all”, referencing Rock and Roll. He’s also the man who renounced his gay identity in order to embrace religion and begin preaching.

Little Richard was a master showman with a daring and hyper-energetic stage presence. None other than The Rolling Stones once opened for him on tour. His tongue-in-cheek catchphrase became “Shut up”, and he was heavily into drugs during the 1970’s. Little Richard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986, and he has taken credit for the success of most every rock star over the last 70 years … and the fabulous closing montage makes it difficult to argue. Director Cortes does justice to the complex life of a complicated and talented man, and ‘Good Golly’, that was no easy task.

Opening in theaters and on Digital beginning April 21, 2023



April 21, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. It’s not unusual for readers to feel a connection to their favorite author, but very few can match the bond shared by writer Judy Blume and her followers. Co-directors Davino Pardo and Leah Wolchok set out to profile the writer whose staggering sales figures (more than 80 million books sold) pale in comparison to the impact she had on so many young girls.

A film adaption (directed by Kelly Fremon Craig) of Ms. Blume’s most well-known book, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret”, is set for a release that corresponds to this documentary, so it’s likely her work is about to experience a revival of sorts. You might wonder how a 1970 book for adolescent girls could still have relevance today, and the answer is that the author is one of the few who addressed what mattered (and matters) to this group: masturbation, menstruation, relationships, body development. Blume’s work addressed these topics in such a way that girls could not only easily relate, but they felt comfort in knowing that they weren’t facing these changes alone. Blume became a best-selling author and a trusted advisor.

The filmmakers opt to include interviews with celebrities such as Molly Ringwald, Lena Dunham, and Samantha Bee, yet it’s the words from “normal” girls and women who recount the impact of the books that strikes an emotional chord. Watching Judy go through the mounds of letters she received from readers brings emphasis to what matters here. Yale University houses Blume’s archies, letters, and papers, and we sense the sentimentality as she re-reads some of these. Regular correspondence with writers Mary H.K. Choi and Lorrie Kim is remarkable, but it’s the consistent letters back and forth with Karen Chilstrom over so many years that pack an emotional wallop. Segments with Judy’s own children, daughter Randy and son Larry, are also included.

We learn Judy was a traditional 1950’s housewife who pursued a career of her own, a not-so-traditional move of the times. She persevered despite many closed doors, and went on to have incredible success doing exactly what she wanted in a style that bucked the trends. That she sold so many books is remarkable when you consider that the target audience for many of her books were too young to even buy books. We see numerous clips of Blume on TV Talk Shows telling her story … her confrontation with ultra-conservative James Buchannan is particularly entertaining. Although the film goes mostly in chronological order, only the most ardent fans will know what year a book being discussed was released. Now in her 80’s, Blume and her husband run a bookstore in Key West with a posted sign that reads … “We sell banned books.” What a fitting exclamation point to a remarkable woman and her career.

Streaming on Prime Video beginning April 21, 2023


THE FIRST STEP (2023, doc)

April 3, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. The old adage goes, “Politics makes for strange bedfellows.” And there may have never been a stranger pairing than Donald Trump advisor (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner and CNN political contributor and activist Van Jones. The two joined forces to push through a prison reform bill that resulted in 10,000 prisoners gaining early release.

Documentarian Brandon Kramer stuck with Jones during his crusade, and the final product delivers insight into the complex world of politics. Now, you might not consider either Kushner or Jones to be true politicians, but the fact is, they worked together to make the system pay attention to a cause that mattered to both … despite their polar opposite political views. This was red and blue working in unison for a shared cause – just the way the two-party system was designed to work.

However, the most fascinating piece isn’t that republicans and democrats came together for a cause. No, the shocker was the criticism and vitriol Jones received from those on HIS side. It was the democrats and the BLM group who were so adamantly against negotiating with the Trump administration, that they were willing to sacrifice the cause – and those who would benefit. Fortunately, Van Jones, a Yale educated lawyer, is a passionate and intelligent man, and not one easily dissuaded from pursuing what he believes to be righteous causes.

Jones is the kind of guy who, when seated on a panel at a conservative function, gets asked, “Van Jones, what are you doing here?” When discussing the “whitelash” of the 2016 election, Jones proclaims it’s not enough to be anti-Trump; we have to be for something positive. Jones’ personal library includes many volumes that help him “know the enemy.” And his fascination with all things Superman – t shirts, comics, bedspreads – offers some insight into his personality.

The most interesting segment of the documentary features Jones bringing together two diametrically opposed groups for a shared cause. Inner-city Los Angeles folks and rural West Virginia residents couldn’t be any different on their views of Trump, but they do share the pain of drug addictions tearing apart their communities. These two groups try to understand their disparate political views, but mostly they share the desire to rid their communities of the personal tragedies brought on by drugs. Jones uses this to prove how complex the issues are when it comes to prison reform … and sentence reform.

At times, this Kramer documentary feels like cheerleading for Van Jones, but it also shows just how complicated and confusing and emotional political topics can become in the world of Washington DC. The pushback Jones receives from his own side (having a white ex-wife doesn’t help) speaks to how close-minded folks have become, and even though this was filmed during the Trump era, the divide still exists today. The real message to me is that intelligent, persistent crusaders working for a just cause, and willing to deal with those throughout the political spectrum, are today’s real superheroes.

Available on VOD beginning April 4, 2023



March 31, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. More than one billion people identify as Catholic, and since 2013, the head of the Church has been Pope Francis. He’s originally from Argentina and is the first Pope from the Americas. Of course, one need not be a practicing Catholic to respect and appreciate the mission and impact of this man … and his commitment to improving humanity. Director Gianfranco Rosi received an Oscar nomination for his 2016 documentary, FIRE AT SEA, and here he utilizes archival footage and clips to chronicle the Pope’s focus on certain topics: poverty, immigration, his anti-war stance, and his pleadings for solidarity amongst Earth’s residents.

The film begins by informing that Pope Francis, in his first nine years as Pope, took 37 trips while visiting 53 different countries in order to spread the messages (noted above) that are so close to his heart. When we see him speak to the globalization of indifference, we can’t help but acknowledge his insight. At each stop, throngs line the road to get a quick glimpse, or perhaps even a touch from the man they view as being on a mission from God. He preaches for the need for a culture of solidarity where countries, politicians, and citizens work together for a better world.

This is a man who has forsaken many of the creature comforts afforded his predecessors, and instead turns his attention to those people and groups marginalized by society. This really hits hard as he rides towards a massive mural of Che Guevara. Pope Francis speaks to an unforgivable pattern of war, and pushes what should be a pattern of peace. He is now 86 years old, and we see a man filled with Peace, Love, and Understanding. One need not be Catholic to see these admirable traits and his commitment. Director Rosi’s film is not so much a Pope’s travel journal, but more an intimate portrait of a man so committed to his mission and purpose that he rarely slows down, even with some physical limitations due to age. We see Pope Francis do that in which he excels … providing hope for a better life, a better world, a better tomorrow.

**As this is posted, Pope Francis has been hospitalized for a respiratory infection.

Magnolia Pictures will release IN VIAGGIO: THE TRAVELS OF POPE FRANCIS 
in theaters and VOD March 31, 2023



March 23, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. “What goes up, must come down” … those are the opening lyrics to “Spinning Wheel”, a huge hit for the brass-rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears. The lyrics are meant to convey the cycles of life, but they also reflect the meteoric rise and fall of the band itself. John Scheinfeld is a knowledgeable and passionate documentarian behind profiles of such acclaimed musicians as Herb Alpert, Brian Wilson, Sergio Mendes, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Bette Midler, Rick Nelson, Rosemary Clooney, John Coltrane, Andy Williams, and Dean Martin. He’s a natural choice to provide the answers to the titular question.

A 9-piece jazz-rock band hitting the charts big time is not something that could have been predicted in the late 1960’s. Scheinfeld opens the film with clips of the band live on stage in Bulgaria in 1970 as David Clayton-Thomas belts out “Spinning Wheel”. We learn they were the first American rock band to perform behind the Iron Curtain, and we also learn there is more to the story. Much more. At the time, the United States was in the Vietnam War and social and political unrest and upheaval were occurring regularly. There is every indication that the State Department invoked a strategy of using a popular band to ease tensions in communist countries. It was the legal and visa issues of Canadian singer Clayton-Thomas that provided the opening the State Department needed to pressure the band to undertake the tour with the goal of softening the U.S. reputation as a bullying military force.

Ultimately, it was a tour that turned most everyone on all sides against the band. Romanian concert goers initially enjoyed the ‘freeing’ aspect of the band’s music, but soon the police used dogs to break up the crowds and end the celebration. When the band returned home, the counterculture couldn’t forgive them for the tour in communist territory, and the conservative right couldn’t forgive them for being against the Vietnam War. Everyone was upset at Blood, Sweat & Tears.

We get a bit of the band’s history in that it was founded by Al Kooper in 1967 when they introduced a new sound, however, after the first album, it was determined a new singer was preferred and a very brief audition from Clayton-Thomas secured the job for him. The rest of the band consisted of Jim Fielder on bass, Bobby Colomby on drums, Steve Katz on guitar, Dick Halligan multiple instruments, Jerry Hyman on horns, Fred Lipsius on sax, and trumpeters Chuck Winfiled and Lew Soloff. For the most part, the band members were not politically outspoken. The exception was Steve Katz who was adamantly opposed to the foreign land tour. It was the band’s second album that changed everything. Three huge hits – “And When I Die”, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, and “Spinning Wheel” – helped them win Album of the Year over the now classic Abbey Road from The Beatles.

Scheinfeld solves another mystery when he explains why, listed as headliners, the band was not featured in the “Woodstock” documentary. Not surprisingly, the answer involves money, and of course, the band members now look back on their manager’s decision with some regret. But there is more to the story of the band’s faded glory than the communist block tour. An early Las Vegas residency, though a much sought-after gig these days, garnered the label “square” for the band … this despite performances at the Fillmore and MSG. Although the band never regained the popularity of that second album, they did have subsequent hits that included “Hi-De-Ho” (written by Carole King) and “Go Down Gamblin’”. Perhaps most shocking is that more than 65 hours of concert footage was shot on the Iron Curtain tour, yet the State Department shelved the documentary project, likely for political reasons given the police and military activity against concert goers. Bonus points to Scheinfeld for solving a couple of long-term musical mysteries here, and also for including some “Bullwinkle” clips.

Abramorama will release the film in theaters beginning March 24th



March 22, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. The throngs of us who are not artistic geniuses ae always fascinated with insight and analysis from those few who are. And when said genius is renowned for eschewing interviews and most any chance to discuss the work, we become all the more intrigued. Such is the case with Oscar-winning director Stanley Kubrick. Although he passed away in 1999, Kubrick’s filmography features many classics that are studied in film schools today: THE KILLING (1956), PATHS OF GLORY (1957), SPARTACUS (1960), LOLITA (1962), DOCTOR STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964), 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), BARRY LYNDON (1975), THE SHINING (1980), FULL METAL JACKET (1987), and EYES WIDE SHUT (1999).

Gregory Monro is a biographer and documentarian (JERRY LEWIS: THE MAN BEHIND THE CLOWN, 2016) and as the structure for this profile of Kubrick, he uses the recordings made by French film critic Michel Ciment during his conversations with Kubrick spanning nearly 20 years. Ciment used the recordings as the basis for his seminal 1982 biography on Kubrick, and Monro adds familiar clips from the well-known films, as well as recognizable set pieces and interviews from faces you’ll surely recognize. These include a young Malcolm McDowell, a thoughtful Jack Nicholson, an annoyed Sterling Hayden, renowned author Arthur C Clarke (2001 interview), a frustrated Marisa Berenson, a forthcoming R Lee Ermey, and megastar Tom Cruise. Most of these folks worked with Kubrick.

Since most of us have not previously heard the recordings, it’s the voice of Kubrick that draws us in and keeps us tuned in. The truth is, we’ve heard from many of his collaborators over the years, yet we’ve heard little from the man himself … until now. Still, although we hear him talking, a natural defensiveness seems to prevent him going too deep on his inspirations, motivations, or objectives. He does speak often of “conflict”, and we see two types in his film: war (PATHS OF GLORY, SPARTACUS, FULL METAL JACKET, DOCTOR STRANGELOVE), and personal (all of the others, including crossover with the war films).

With his reputation as a perfectionist, we are a bit surprised at how open Kubrick seemed to be with spontaneity. On one hand, we have Oscar-winning composer Leonard Rosenman (BARRY LYNDON) recalling tempers boiling over when Kubrick made the orchestra re-do the piece more than 100 times. On the other hand, he allowed actors like Peter Sellers and Jack Nicholson to bring their own spin to roles. Kubrick was a New Yorker who relocated to London, where we learn he ran his world, both professional and personal.

This is one for those cinephiles who never miss a chance to discover even a morsel of insight into the greats of cinema. We can’t help but recall the 2015 documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut, although the master of suspense seemed much more willing to share thoughts on his craft than what we get here with Kubrick. None of this should be surprising from the guy who created and filmed the maze in THE SHINING.

Available VOD beginning March 21, 2023