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Around 1940, New Yorker staff writer Joe Mitchell meets Joe Gould, a Greenwich Village character who cadges meals, drinks, and contributions to the Joe Gould Fund and who is writing a voluminous Oral History of the World, a record of 20,000 conversations he's overheard. Mitchell is fascinated with this Harvard grad and writes a 1942 piece about him, "Professor Seagull," bringing Gould some celebrity and an invitation to join the Greenwich Village Ravens, a poetry club he's often crashed. Gould's touchy, querulous personality and his frequent dropping in on Mitchell for hours of chat lead to a breakup, but the two Joes stay in touch until Gould's death and Mitchell's unveiling of the secret. Written by
In my home town, I never felt at home. In New York, New York City, in Greenwich Village, down among the cranks, and the misfits, and the one runners, and the has-beens, and the might-have-beens, and the would-bes, and the never-wills, and the God-knows-whats, I have always felt at home.
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"The story's not over just because the writer stops writing."
What a line that was.
Likely the best movie I've seen in ten years. Joe Mitchell's clear, lucid writing comes through so well one wonders why this hasn't been done before. Being familiar with the stories on which this film is based helped.
Ian Holm brings Gould to life, and Tucci plays the bemused, then overwhelmed journalist wonderfully well. (I could quibble about his "generic southern" rather than North Carolina accent, but that really is just a quibble.)
It made me think (always a sign of any good work of art) about the brief celebrity brought onto persons by well-meaning journalists. We see a slice of their lives, their 15 minutes of fame, but their lives continue on, following their daily routines, which may now be altered by their brush with fame.
It also brings out the dance between madness and genius. How many mumbling street people have we seen and passed, never realizing that there is a life, perhaps wisdom, lurking beneath the tattered clothes, sheltered in their cardboard boxes?
I like movies that are well-written, and this one certainly is. And the New York of the 40's and 50's is a character in the film to. To see the Village Vandguard's sign, knowing that beneath this sign passed Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Coltrane...
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