Tuesday, September 30, 2014


On paper the documentary couldn't be simpler: combine images and film shot by the late Samuel Fuller (both from his strident, incendiarily leftist motion pictures and from reels shot throughout his life) with excerpts from his autobiography, read by about fifteen of his colleagues, collaborators, and kindred spirits. But director Samantha Fuller has assembled a tribute to her remarkable father that transcends this simple framework and winds up absorbing us with his life, his images, his words.

Words. As she tells us early on, every word in the movie after her introduction is her father's, and all paying tribute (reading from various positions in Fuller's packed basement archive) can't help but endow their readings with their own gritty Fullerisms. Aaron suggested that all of them (particularly those who had been directed by Fuller) remain to a degree possessed by him, which isn't quite the term I'd use. One wonders how deeply Samantha Fuller asked her readers to approximate her father's cadences; I suspect many of them easily, even subconsciously adopted them as they recalled their own shared journeys with Fuller. It's this sharing, a mutual understanding between Fuller and his collaborators that resonates most powerfully, and these journeys find powerful, moving parallels in the texts read for us.

The pairing of each section of text with its reader is often inspired. James Franco obligatorily shows up and is given the movie's first text, in which Fuller recalls his youthful innocence before taking the newspaper job that would shape his life. Jennifer Beals warmly reads Fuller's recollections of these assignments, illustrated by her performance as a photojournalist in Fuller's The Madonna and the Dragon. Arguably the most powerful impression is left by Bill Duke, whose downright Shakespearean reading of Fuller's recollections of coming of age as a crime reporter speaks to a shared experience, and deep reservoirs of abiding love and respect. Naked Kiss star Constance Towers makes a similar impression as she reads Fuller's cranky, take-no-prisoners recollections of his filmmaking ethos; working with Fuller clearly ignited something inside Towers, and half a century later it clearly still burns inside her.

One would love to hear any of the assembled readers take on the reading a Fuller novel for a books-on=tape/disc edition. Not just because they would all rock the assignment (they all certainly would), but because there's so much pleasure inherent in Fuller's words, and seeing & hearing these talented and respectful collaborators bringing those words to life. Whatever Fuller imparted to these people still clearly lives inside them; thanks to Samantha Fuller's loving, moving tribute, Fuller's life and words resonate inside us as well.