Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction isn’t so much a documentary as it is a rap session, better yet a jam session, through the life, travails and acquaintances of the man who has forgotten more about how much he’s forgotten about Hollywood than any regular person could ever possibly have hoped to ever know. Stanton is a guy that his assistant, Logan Sparks, calls the “Forrest Gump of Hollywood”, in that he’s a person who seems to have stumbled his way through notable moments in the city’s film history, both in front of and away from the camera. Among his stable of friends are Jack Nicholson, Debby Harry, Rebecca De Mornay, Jack Nicholson, Wim Wenders, David Lynch, Marlon Brando and Kris Kristofferson, many of whom add their particular insights into their friend here.
Friend and collaborator, Sam Shepard, probably puts it best in that Stanton knows his face tells a story. A weathered old puss that’s seen the likes of a Kentucky hometown in the depression, World War II (The Battle of Okinawa) and decades of Hollywood history in some 200+ films and TV appearances (IMDB has it at 184). Stanton takes us through quite a bit of it in a short amount of time (the film runs a total of 76 minutes), and sings us through other parts. In fact, it’s through the music that the viewer is probably treated to the best insight into the psyche of the wiley cult hero who admits that he “gives nothing away” when it comes to what’s in his noggin.
In between musical sessions, we get glimpses of Stanton at his favorite bar, which he’s been frequenting for some four decades. There he has a curious conversation with a gentleman named “Mouse” who is an admirer and who tells Stanton that “friendship is essential for the soul” (which Stanton takes a bit to understand due to a pronunciation barrier). It’s there that Sparks tells you that Stanton’s mantra of doing nothing in acting is bullshit, because Stanton’s been driven to succeed for decades. Stanton may take issue with that because when asked point blank by director Sophie Huber what his advice would be to a young actor, it’s to simply “play yourself.”
The doco is from first timer Huber, who interjects her questions sparingly, when things seem to hit a snag, which is rare, because although he says he gives nothing away, Stanton can make with the entertaining yarn or the pointed regret, like when lost lover Rebecca De Mornay to Tom Cruise when Risky Business happened because he didn’t realize what he had until it was gone. Perhaps that’s a symptom of what led to Stanton being a lifelong loner in love, but never in friendship. David Lynch stops by the proceedings to wax on their various collaborations, Debby Harry puts in an appearance to inform us that they got cozy at one time, and probably the best section of storytelling comes from when Stanton visits longtime friend, whose career he helped jump start, Kris Kristofferson. There’s a funny anecdote about Stanton and Bob Dylan ruining a Sam Peckinpah shot at dusk.
And that’s Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction in a nutshell. There are also some clips from Stanton’s career in films like Cool Hand Luke, Cisco Pike, and Paris, Texas. They’re used sparingly and fit more into the narrative of where Stanton was at that time in his life than what they say about his acting ability. If you’ve been a fan of Harry Dean, then you’re definitely going to want to drop by for a couple of songs and a smoke.
It opens in the following markets:
- Village East/New York, NY – 9/11/13
- Landmark Nuart/W. Los Angeles, CA (Harry to appear after main show for Q&A and intro 9:30 show.) – 9/13/13
- Arizona Underground Film Festival/Tucson, AZ – 9/13/13
- Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane/Austin, TX – 9/27/13
Out of a Possible 5 Stars