Love the author? Rereading something pithy? Here are films – fiction and documentary- about the person.
Kazantzakis 2018 Based on Kazantzakis’ autobiography Report to Greco. Directed by Yannis Smaragdis. The literary, political, and spiritual life (implementation of the ideas of Christ, Buddha and Lenin) of famed author Nikos Kazantzakis as passionately manifest by a man who understands the soil from which he rose. Cinematography is rich, characterization vibrant.
We follow the author played by Odysseas Papaspiliopoulos, his deep, lifelong friendship with poet Angelos Sikelianos (Nikos Kardonis) and his love for wife Eleni (Marina Kalogirou) who acted as beacon and typist through near starvation, success and government ministry. “Life is a bumpy road and one must walk it with dignity and bravery.” Rent with Amazon Prime.
Gabriel García Márquez
Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez 2016 Directed by Justin Webster. Colombian magical realist/Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez- perhaps best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude, was raised with great freedom by his grandparents in Aracataca, where “women lived with fantasy and men were practical, so I ended up juggling the two worlds.” Like one of his stories, he fell deeply in love at age 14 and returned to marry the girl after making an initial success.
Márquez dropped out of law school and turned to writing when he left home, first with journalism (his first story was printed the day after submission), then novels often based on his past. Family, peers, a biographer, and fans (even Bill Clinton) share his political (including involvement with Fidel Castro) and literary trajectory. Márquez himself appears in photos and on film. Excerpts from his work are heard while viewing locations described. Though not intimate, the film fleshes out the popular writer adding to his mystique. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Chris & Don: A Love Story 2008 Directed by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara. Truth in advertising for a change. Through photos, film, talking heads, charming self-drawn cartoons with the men’s nicknames, and diary entries, we’re lead through the lifelong partnership of Don Bachardy (who often narrates) and Christopher Isherwood. Bachardy opens with some background on upper class British Isherwood, then describes their meeting when he was 18 and the author 48.
“He took this young boy and worked me into his mold” even extended to an unconsciously acquired British accent and bearing (as observed by friend Leslie Caron) as well as apparel consultations. Isherwood was kind, loyal, and supportive.
Bachardy recalls his insecurity when exposed to the older man’s famous friends – including, in part, Tennessee Williams, E.M. Forster, Somerset Maugham, and W.H. Auden – with whom the author first went to Berlin. Aware of his partner being dazzled, Isherwood also introduced him to as many film stars as possible, attending otherwise eschewed parties. He also, importantly, encouraged development of Bachardy’s excellent art skills which reveal an ongoing talent for portraiture. A narrow view, but revealing in context and rather sweet. Free with Amazon Prime.
Capote 2006 Based on Gerald Clarke’s 1988 biography. Directed by Bennett Miller. With Philip Seymour Hoffman (Academy Award Best Actor) as Truman Capote. This is the story of Capote’s four year immersion in the Kansas murder of four members of the Herbert Clutter family that resulted in what he called his “nonfiction novel” In Cold Blood.
We observe the author’s first on site visits with friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) in tow for moral support (and perhaps so that he seemed less exotic) and his insidiously ingratiating himself with interviewees; his becoming a supporter of murderer Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), going so far as to secure lawyers for him, through last prison meetings with Perry showing not only deep involvement, but possible transference.
Stark, painful, powerful. Except for extra flesh, Hoffman has Capote shudderingly down. Chris Cooper is very fine as Detective Alvin Dewey. An epilogue points out In Cold Blood is Capote’s last finished book. Free with Amazon Prime.
Truman Capote Tells All This candid 1979 television interview was re-released in 2020. Unfortunately, it cuts off before the end. David Susskind begins by asking author/raconteur Truman Capote about his “outrageous behavior,” much of which was fueled by drugs or alcohol. His guest has answers for every supposedly misinterpreted incident. When pressed as to why he doesn’t sue, Capote responds he’s not litigious.
They talk about Studio 54, a facelift, Capote’s cruel to catty “observance” of the wealthy which resulted in the book Answered Prayers, resulting in his loss of a great many “friends,” and a disastrous film starring Lee Radziwill. It’s a glimpse at the mercurial personality. Free with Amazon Prime.
Norman Mailer – The American 2012 Directed by Joe Mantegna (not the actor). I admit to not getting through this. The iconic author, social commentator, filmmaker, activist, candidate was hugely egotistical, self indulgent, irresponsible, misogynistic, off the wall irrational, aggressively provocative, and violent. Filled with talking heads – ex-wives, damaged children, surprised peers, and observers as well as the larger than life personality himself. Free with Amazon Prime.
Iris 2001 Based on Murdoch’s husband John Baley’s memoir Elegy for Iris. Directed by Richard Eyre. Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent play Iris and John towards the end of the author’s life while Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville play them in college. The film goes back and forth showing how roots of the present lay in the past, the way some things are remembered beyond thinking.
Shy, awkward Baley is among many besotted by sophisticated, sexual libertine Murdoch, yet she chooses him – perhaps because of his kindness, sensitivity, and unconditional love. Among glorious moments are Iris’s exultant, sensual spirit as a young woman intermittently rising again as she slips into senility (underwater scenes then and “now” are particularly affecting). And her husband’s poignant, anger and fear when she moves beyond grasp.
Between college and dementia, we glimpse the articulate philosopher/ novelist and her symbiotic husband in a relationship that veritably hums. An acting master class. Beautiful and painful. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Top photo: Bigstock