Who Is Henry Jaglom? (1997)

 -  Documentary  -  8 July 1997 (USA)
5.6
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Henry Jaglom was hailed by some as a cinematic genius, a feminist voice and a true maverick of American cinema, dismissed by others as a voyeuristic, egomaniac fraud and the "world's worst director,"

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Henry Jaglom was hailed by some as a cinematic genius, a feminist voice and a true maverick of American cinema, dismissed by others as a voyeuristic, egomaniac fraud and the "world's worst director,"

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Not Someone to Love, apparently
11 November 2001 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

The French auteur theory aligns the film director with his film. Although not allowing for workmanlike directors who are able to genre jump, the theory maintains that each product has an imposed and recognisably singular vision. As an independent film maker who produces cinema verite style work, Henry Jaglom is described in this doco by Alex Rubin and Jeremy Workman as individual as Godard or John Cassavetes, however their portrait of Jaglom focuses more on the man than his films. Since Rubin and Workman show behind the scenes footage of Jaglom berating his actors, we assume that Jaglom hasn't imposed any restriction on them. If he lets himself be seen like this... However there is little of Jaglom's film work here. We get Jaglom's home movies, TV interviews, and comments about him by various actors and critics, with more negative than positive input. There is the sense that the makers of the doco assume an audience's knowledge of Jaglom, which gives the title an exasperated clinical tone, from the lack of depth given to his oeuvre, and from the inclusion of negative comments, since how can you appreciate an insult about something you are ignorant of? The footage of Jaglom in tantrum is shown to counter Jaglom's claim of unscripted improvisation as the ultimate freedom for the actor, which he rationalises by stating that it is a technique to help the actor deliver a performance. However it's clear that Rubin and Workman don't buy this defence otherwise they would present the takes that resulted, as evidence. Clearly they are out to do a hatchet job, from the opening credits featuring a steadicam wearing a Jaglom signature hat, Jaglom's taping conversations with Orson Welles without his approval (which Jaglom denies), and his willingness to help up and comer's as being motivationally suspicious. Occasionally the negativity is funny - with his brother Michael Emil revealing a sibling rivalry, and Andrea Marcovicci doing an impression of Jaglom's sociopathic form of concerned questioning. However Candice Bergen's comment that "if she had Henry as her father or husband she could have taken Poland" is evidence of his sustained motivation, which comes across in spite of the supposed resistance of his actors, some of whom have given him their best screen work. It's fun to see Henry on TV's Gidget as a beatnic, and one laughs at how Bob Rafelson dismisses Jaglom when he was at the Actors Studio. As an admirer of Jaglom, I was disatisfied with this coverage. It seems aimed to drive a viewer away from his films, rather than want to explore them, which left me sad. The French auteurs may be right about the singular vision of a director, but I don't think that should also include his personal behaviour. I may not want to be Henry Jaglom's friend, but that doesn't mean his work is not worth a look.


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