Directed by Matthew Miele | 98 min | ▲▲▲▲△ | Digital and VOD
This is the kind of documentary about an artist so respected, revered, and so missed that every one of the actors who appears here who worked with him opens up in a way you don’t see very often in our public-relation curated celebrity culture. That’s one of the real pleasures of this film, which starts with the visionary director’s death, and how it shocked everyone, before rolling back the years to explore his work and unique approach as a filmmaker.
The actors who go on the record include Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Jeff Bridges, and Nova Scotia resident Jane Alexander, as well as filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh and James L. Brooks.
For those who don’t know, Alan J Pakula was an immensely impressive filmmaker. Amongst his work: To Kill A Mockingbird, Sophie’s Choice, and Presumed Innocent, but he may be best known for what’s called his paranoid trilogy from the 1970s: Klute, The Parallax View, and All The President’s Men.
It’s hard to think of three films that better represent the zeitgeist at the time beyond maybe Chinatown and The Conversation, the feeling that the government and accepted systems couldn’t be trusted. (That said, it was Rocky that won Best Picture in 1976 over All The President’s Men and Network. Sheesh.)
The doc explores his process — Pakula apparently used to tell people he was a psychologist, not a filmmaker, because it got them to talk about themselves. He was clearly someone with a huge curiosity about human beings, which served him so well as a storyteller. It gets deep into why All The President’s Men works so well — and Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward talk about that.
Pakula died in a freak accident, a tragedy that informs the documentary. If anything, the emotion we see from all those who miss him gives it more of a heart.