Sunday, November 23, 2014

Streaming tip -- Nicholas D. Warthall's docu, GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA

Enormously entertaining (as was its subject himself), GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA is a celebration by filmmaker Nicholas D. Wrathall of the late author, scourge and huge cultural presence for well over a half century. It proves both a pleasure for us who knew of and enjoyed the man's talents and a fine introduction for those younger folk who may be first making their acquaintance with this legend (and despite that silly Blackgama ad campaign, this is not a word I toss about with any regularity).

Mr. Wrathall, shown at left, proves deft at mixing history, biography, opinion (and, yes, some hagiography) so that we get a full picture of this unusually bright, witty, sometimes nasty fellow who did not suffer fools (or often even more ordinary folk) gladly. Through the filmmaker's use of a plethora of archival material, we wend our way along the life of this brilliant man, from his earliest history to his military career, his rise to fame as a writer and his ability to fan that fame as everything from raconteur to provoca-teur to celebrity -- all the while writing those interesting books.

Quite the handsome young man (above) whom we see become an éminence grise (below), Vidal explains everything from his love to writing to his sex life, in which "love" never entered the picture -- though whether we can believe it all is another matter.

Simply for the chance to see the incredible view from Vidal's villa (below) in Italy, this movie is worth watching. But there's a lot more, including politics, smart-mouthing (even if he occasionally contradicts himself), and a tour of the cemetery, along with his gravestone, shown at bottom, under which our friend is now at rest.

We get a good glimpse of his special feuds, too -- with William Buckley and Norman Mailer -- which, no matter how often we hear/see these, they still manage to entertain rather brilliantly. I don't think there is anyone currently around who can begin to take this fellow's place -- which he, of course, would be delighted, though not at all surprised, to hear.

Unashamedly left-wing, gay and/or bisexual (and more of less "out" before many of his kind had made that move), and hobnobbing with a wide assortment of world leaders (that's Gorbachev, above), Mr. Vidal was ever alert, adept and surprising.

You can stream Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia , running 83 minutes, now via Netflix and elsewhere, or watch it on DVD.

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