Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: "Plimpton!" at Hot Springs Documentary Film Fest

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM

plimpton.jpg

"Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself"
Tom Bean, Luke Poling
88 Minutes

The interesting life of writer and participatory journalist George Plimpton is documented in "Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself." Through interviews with friends and family, archival footage and readings of his writing, the audience is given a portrait of a man who lived several separate lives. Plimpton was the ultimate outsider, even among his peers and family.

The charm of the film is the charm of its star, who was the founding editor of revered journal The Paris Review, where he was the first to champion such authors as Philip Roth and Adrienne Rich. He was also a best-selling writer, and star of several television documentaries, where he displayed his unique and new style of journalism. Plimpton
covered his subject as an active participant, where he says he was always "looking for the moment of abject failure." For instance, Plimpton played quarterback for the Detroit Lions, pitched for the New York Yankees, went in the ring against a boxing champion, and played in the New York Philharmonic Symphony. Plimpton immersed himself in all these roles and wrote about his first hand experiences.

The movie's star doesn't appear in interview, as Plimpton died in 2003. Any insight gleaned on his personal feelings or motivations comes from what Plimpton left behind in his writing or on camera. That he was an eyewitness to the assassination of his close friend Robert Kennedy, that he wrestled the gun out of assassin Sirhan Sirhan's hands, and never once spoke about it hints at a man who, despite his very public persona, was incredibly private.

Friends and family mention that they wanted more of him, that he was an outsider in his personal life too. The viewer is given clues that hint at the sadness of a man who lived a life that is seemingly the inspiration to the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World" ad campaign.

Perhaps the greatest clue is seen in his relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Plimpton sought out long interviews with writers for The Paris Review where they would discuss the lofty idea of the Art of Writing. Hemingway's response to a request from Plimpton was a simple letter saying, "Fuck the Art of Writing. But if you want to meet, let's meet." Hemingway detested talking about the minutia of his work, but offered Plimpton a chance to enter his world.

"Plimpton!" is perhaps the closest thing that George Plimpton could offer to those wanting to know more about the single man who lived so many different lives.

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