Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012)

89% – Critics
76% – Audience

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction Storyline

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction is a mesmerizing, impressionistic portrait of the iconic actor comprised of intimate moments, film clips from some of his 250 films and his own heart-breaking renditions of American folk songs. Stunningly lensed in color and b/w by Seamus McGarvey, the film explores the actor’s enigmatic outlook on his life, his unexploited talents as a musician, and includes candid scenes with David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Sam Shepard, Kris Kristofferson and Debbie Harry. The fragile soul of an actor emerges from the poignant collage.

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Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction Movie Reviews

Genuinely strange.

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!

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 Shepard. 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!

Great Verite Doc

I saw this twice in the theaters – a rarity for me. The film is part musical (Harry sings quite a few songs), part verite (days in the life of an unsung hero in showbiz), and part retrospective of the man’s career. I found this to be a wonderful change of pace from the run-of-the-mill documentary we see every day. Great black and white photography and very interesting conversations with Kris Kristofferson, David Lynch and others. Harry does not ‘spell’ anything out for you, so don’t come looking for answers! Some of the best moments come when we see Harry drinking at his local bar and mingling with the patrons. Make sure you watch the credits for his wonderful rendition of Danny Boy.’ Overall, this film is something refreshing and different for those seeking new and unusual ways to piece a documentary together.

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Intriguing and uniquely strange insight into the life and more properly the thinkings and philosophies of the man. Whilst the film does look at a number of his films and acting style, particularly Paris,Texas, the subject is almost incidental. What you get is largely face time with Stanton as he ponders his life and thinking, punctuated for probably half the film with him singing, rather beautifully, I might add, a significant number of great old songs. He does talk briefly about acting, film making and friends from the industry – it’s nice to see him and Kristofferson chat lovingly – and interestingly, Stanton’s assistant advises that whilst he is to a degree the Forrest Gump of the film world, make no mistake, he works very hard to get things right.

So not your typical movie type documentary, but grab a glass of Tennessee Whiskey, sit back and let it wash over you.