I love documentaries, but every documentary I’ve watched lately has to do with nature, or food, or travel, or musicians. Seriously – George Harrison Living in the Material World, Chef’s Table, Mind of a Chef, Planet Earth, Blue Planet, etc. etc. blah blah blah. Where are all the documentaries about authors?
I put together a list of five documentaries about famous authors that are definitely worth seeing, but in spite of the struggle to put this list together, I’m still jonesing for more.
1. Margaret Atwood: Once in August
Image via Academy of American Poets
1984, a year before the release of The Handmaid’s Tale, filmmaker Michael Rubbo drops us into Margaret Atwood’s family vacation spot in the middle of the woods. Between frequent narration about his subject and between-interview discussions on how to best bring her out in front of the camera, Rubbo’s film often feels like a wildlife documentary. Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale or The Blind Assassin should definitely check this one out. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of the author before she really hit it big.
2. The Charles Bukowski Tapes
Image via Discogs
This 1987 documentary is a compilation of over fifty interviews with Bukowski and is an exhausting but exhilarating four hours long. Filmmaker Barbet Schroeder sets up a shot and lets the author talk about anything and everything, and it doesn’t take long for things to get uncomfortable, which shouldn’t surprise you if you know anything about Charles Bukowski, especially since his column Notes of a Dirty Old Man is what brought him to both fame and infamy – just ask the FBI. Schroeder doesn’t try and mask anything, he wants the audience to see it.
3. Breakfast with Hunter
Image via The Hollywood Reporter
Quintessential Hunter S. Thompson – the 2003 documentary opens with the gonzo journalist pulling up to the curb with a cigarette and a blow-up doll, both of which he then throws into the street. If you’re looking for a film about the author’s childhood or personal life, this one isn’t for you. Instead, he discusses Nixon, film adaptations of his work, and DUI laws while you get a peek at his bizarre day-to-day, including ambushing Rolling Stone co-founder and publisher Jann Wenner with a stolen fire extinguisher. It’s a trip, much like Hunter S. Thompson, and it’s a trip you’ll want to take.
4. William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010)
Image via NPR
Luckily, this isn’t just another documentary about the Beatnik movement, which it easily could have been. Instead, it tries to understand the angry man behind Naked Lunch, including the drugs and the guns, though it’s most interested in exploring Burroughs’ capacity to love, and somehow, it actually gets an answer at the end.
Image via Wikipedia
Apparently Salinger was huge when it was first released in 2013, but I’d never heard about it, probably because it didn’t live up to its pre-release hype. It was supposed to reveal sensational new information on the reclusive author’s life, along with a few unpublished novels, but four years later there were a few leaks, but no actual new publications. But hey, if you’ve ever wondered what Danny DeVito thinks of the author, check out this documentary.
Featured image via Live For Film.