Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom/USA, 1996. British Film Institute, Independent Film Channel. Screenplay by Adam Simon. Cinematography by Caroline Champetier. Produced by Paula Jalfon, Colin MacCabe. Film Editing by William Diver.
Adam Simon teams up with Tim Robbins to investigate the life and work of the great Samuel Fuller, a landmark American filmmaker who has never quite found a home in the popular cultural memory of classic Hollywood. Fuller was a newspaper man who served in World War II before turning his sights to directing, his brutal and fearless narratives reflecting the years he spent amid the sharp edges of journalism and the much darker realities of combat and battle. Many of his films reflect his time in the war directly (The Steel Helmet, Merrill’s Marauders), while others, like Pickup On South Street, have an exacting harshness that seeks to clear up people’s ridiculous misconceptions of the softened presentation of violence that they’re so fond of in their glamorous movies. Robbins speaks to Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Jim Jarmusch as they provide detailed explanations of what makes Fuller’s work so impressive and vital while being equally enthusiastic about their love for his fantastic films. Most wonderful, though, is the man himself, here filmed about a year before his passing, still the rebellious icon chomping on his cigars and giving the bottom line without compromise. Fuller spent his last years in Paris, disappointed with the reaction to his disturbing and dark White Dog (which was unreleased in North America for a very long time), and in danger of being forgotten if it were not for a documentary like this preceding his appreciation through efforts like those of the Criterion Collection.