6.9/10
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5 user 11 critic

James Ellroy: Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction (1998)

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25 March 1998 (USA)  »

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Great Writer, Poor Documentary
7 July 2000 | by See all my reviews

James Ellroy, a great writer and interesting personality, I would have liked to learn more about him. Unfortunately this documentary, by Reinhard Jud, seems to only glaze over the man and show us a well-staged facade. Jud follows Ellroy around Los Angeles while Ellroy gives us tidbits of information about his life and some of that city's most interesting history and crimes.

These vignettes serve only to get us interested more in Ellroy, yet they do nearly nothing to tell us about the real man. Even when Ellroy visits the site of his mother's unsolved murder we feel a little empty and cheated. If Jud got to know Ellroy it doesn't show here. We feel as if we're on a tour bus with Ellroy as the guide, wishing he was somewhere else.

There are some good moments in the film. Most of them involve Ellroy speaking about his youth and taking us through the neighborhoods that he used to haunt as a young man. These moments, sadly, are few and the rest of the film is filled with seemingly endless footage of L.A.

We get the impression that Jud could only get a minimal amount of footage with Ellroy, and had to beef up the film so it could reach a feature length status. This makes one believe that Jud should have attempted to spend more time with Ellroy, to do as any good documentary film-maker would do: get to know the subject intimately. Sadly, this wasn't the case.

I wish that the same amount of care and research that went into the excellent documentary "American Movie" could be invested in James Ellroy. He's a complex and interesting personality, and worthy of more than this film offers.


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