Edinburgh Bites: Harry Dean Stanton - Partly Fiction Review

Mike Scurfield catches Harry Dean Stanton - Partly Fiction at the Edinburgh International Film Festival...

Probably the best concert film you’ll see all year - that’s right, this part-documentary, part-retrospective on the terrific, prolific screen actor Harry Dean Stanton arrives stuffed with laughs, poignancy, and crooning by the great man himself. You’ll come for the amazing anecdotes, but you’ll stay for the music.

Shot in artful monochrome, the main interview is a joyous treasure trove of stories and personal details that form the foundation of this surprising, entrancing work by first-time feature documentary director, Sophie Huber. A man of few words, some early questions return awkward, single-word answers. Yet later we hear extended pontifications on his deep admiration for Marlon Brando, his respect for Dennis Hopper, and his own status as a self-confessed loner in life. Peppered into the mix are insightful conversations with filmmakers and friends; David Lynch, Debbie Harry, Kris Kristofferson and Wim Wenders, each holding a key to unlocking the mystery behind the man.

Analysis of his work is limited, the only prolonged dissection being Paris, Texas (his first lead role), yet through snippets and stories Huber’s film manages to sketch the outline of an epic 60-year screen career without much need for detail. Where this delightful, often laugh-out-loud film really shines, however, is in its musical interludes. Harry Dean sings, accompanied by guitar, in close-framed sequences that seduce and enthrall. His moving rendition of Everybody’s Talkin’ practically demands an applause break. So put your hands together for a living legend (one with the award to prove it), and a portrait film that, for once, isn’t some posthumous dedication, but a long-overdue celebration.

- out of 10
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out of 10

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