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Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

A very strange and meandering sort of biography.

Harry Dean Stanton is one of those faces you’re sure to recognize—though you might not recognize his name.  Stanton is an 87 year-old character actor with over 200 credits and has appeared in tons of --television shows and movies since 1954—including Repo Man, Alien, The Green Mile, Pat Garrett & Bill the Kid and Kelly’s Heroes.  Filmmaker Sophie Huber somehow got Stanton to agree to a long series of interviews as well as meetings with Stanton’s friends.  For folks who are huge film nuts, it’s well worth seeing.  For everyone else, it’s a bit iffy to suggest it, as this biography is nothing like any I’d ever seen before, as it’s very meandering and its mood a bit odd to say the least!

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction
Directed by Sophie Huber
Cast Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Sam Shepard
Release Date 11 September 2013
Martin's Grade: B-

Much of the film consists of Stanton just talking to the camera.  However, at the beginning he makes it clear that there are some topics he didn’t want to discuss—mostly about his childhood and parents.  It’s a shame, as this is EXACTLY the sort of stuff I was dying to hear about but only heard Stanton allude to his mother and home town briefly.  He also talked very little about himself or his career during the early years.  Aside from that, his comments were like a stream of consciousness—with Stanton meandering about with little apparent direction as well as discussing his philosophy of life.

For the most part, this bachelor actor believes that you are born and you die and there really isn’t any more to it than that.  In some ways, this sounds very lonely and depressing—at least when I think about this today, on my 28th anniversary.  But the actor seems to have a lot of friends and many were featured here, such as directors Wim Wenders and David Lynch as well as Kris Kristofferson, Debbie Harry and writer/actor Sam Sheppard.  Much of the time, these folks simply sat down and chatted with Stanton—discussing old times, experiences they had together on the sets or chats they had over drinks.

The overall effect of watching this is like sitting in the corner and listening to an old crank talk.  This is not meant as an insult, as Stanton seems to like cultivating a certain odd persona—a guy who seems to love going his own way and avoiding the usual Hollywood stereotypes.

But here’s the unusual part—he also, repeatedly, breaks into song!  At first, his folksy style sounded only barely interesting—but over time, I realized that despite his grizzled style, he had an interesting knack for telling stories in song.  So is this film for you?  Perhaps.  It is available through Netflix—and was just released about a week ago.  But you need to have an appreciation for this sort of picture and like the idea of getting to know this enigmatic guy.  To be honest, it certainly will be a hard sell to the teens and those who are not cinemaniacs (like me), but the film is, despite its seemingly directionless style, actually is well-crafted and highly original in style.  Well worth seeing but odd to say the least!

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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