Cut down from a two-part, three-hour interview originally aired on French television, this exemplary documentary which aired in this version as part of the PBS American Masters series brings vigor to a talking-heads format. Though it includes readings from tough-guy author Norman Mailer's works, it's primarily a vehicle for Mailer's thoughts about politics, literary reputations and the decline of modern culture. As much a history of twentieth century America as it is a backward glance at Mailer's ouevre, it examines Mailer's work in the context of his unflinching beliefs: The Naked and The Dead reveals his reservations about war, while The Executioner's Song explores his objections to capital punishment, and so on. Unsparing about his own character flaws particularly paranoia and volatility Mailer uses his pitiless powers of observation on political icons like JFK, Nixon, and Reagan. Mailer explains the expiatory undercurrent of the communist witch-hunts as an outgrowth of American Puritanism. Mailer's remarkable life is filled with undisputed masterworks, as well as troubling incidents such as the stabbing of his first wife and his championing of Jack Henry Abbott, who committed murder after Mailer's efforts helped secure his release from prison. For many years, violence never seemed far from the surface of Mailer's work or personal life. Whether one agrees with Mailer's sweeping criticisms or not, it is impossible to deny his passion in this candid philosophical biography.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: Cut down from a two-part, three-hour interview originally aired on French television, this exemplary documentary which aired in this version as part of the PBS American Masters series brings vigor to a talking-heads format. Though it includes… (more)