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I am a huge Gary Hawkins fan--the work is beautiful, energized, intense, and wholly original. I use this film (THE ROUGH SOUTH OF LARRY BROWN) in my narrative technique classes and students come to Larry Brown's work, but fiction-writing in general, with passion and openness after seeing the film. Hawkins tells many stories within the main story--bringing the writer and his work to life in ways that are simply stunning, unforgettable. I can't imagine not having this film! My students' favorite sections are those where all the magazine titles of all the places that rejected the stories are shown, in Brown's hand. Highly recommend.
"The Rough South of Larry Brown" is more than just a documentary. It's an honest look at one of America's most unpretentious literary heroes, created with compassion, passion, and true Southern grace. Gary Hawkins, the film's director, has made many masterpieces (well, in all honesty, every film he's ever made has been a classic), and "The Rough South of Larry Brown" puts him in a league of his own, just like Larry. Larry and his relentless quest to be heard--to having become the legend he is and will always be--is depicted in this film with such clarity, such immortality, that one can only be thankful to have Larry with us on our screens, in our minds, in our hearts, and our bookshelves, as we follow his determination toward the craft with awe, the utmost respect, in our one sojourns to be heard ourselves. And I'm forever in Hawkins' debt, for constructing such a classic for the world to see and understand, for showcasing Larry's Mississippi heart and voice that will forever be etched into my own. God Bless you Larry, and thank you Gary Hawkins! KR
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A 90's Bukowski by way of Will Faulkner, Larry Brown's bare-knuckle prose has invited his audience to build a mystique around him over the years, but this film illuminates the components of a literary legend in his prime from inside his world, demystifying its subject elegantly. Rough South achieves what the author does nicely in his work; it stays out of the way of the action, building a dialogue directly between audience and subject. It builds its case simply, using a few interviews with the author, his wife, and his mother to set the stage for long pans across still photos and rough edged home video footage that create an intimate feel by capturing the era, set to a haunting original score by Vic Chesnutt. The interview/photos/home video sections are thematically bracketed by 'narrative recreations' of 3 of the author's stories. In the 1st, Boy and Dog, we're inside the head of a boy who exacts a profound revenge beyond his comprehension, which is shown in a unique fashion. The footage is woven in just a little ahead of itself in the story being told so that we're sucked into it w/o quite realizing it at first. The 2nd, Wild Thing, flows from the bar scene Larry describes as the inspiration for much of his work and does a great job of superimposing video over still shots to capture the feeling of fleeting moments in the dark. It doesn't hurt that the Wild Thing in question, Ms. Kendra Cover is a very attractive model in the hands of a talented photographer's black and white moodiness. With the 3rd, Samaritans, we realize that each of the two preceding pieces were buildup. Will Patton plays Man with every bit of the understatement implied by his character name; all in the eyes, but in all the right ways. He plays straight man to Natalie Canerday's whirlwind turn as Woman, who makes use of all the space given her without once falling in a performance that demanded a wide arc in a short time. Charles "Jim" Brasher, subject of regional artist Mike Lock's acclaimed "Standup Jim Series" nimbly plays the bartender who quickly sees what our protagonist refuses to, until later, when forced by her son. While all three stories vary dramatically in style, they each pack punches you feel in your gut hours later. "I'm trying to walk the line between hard-heartedness and sentimentality without leaning' either way," Larry says at one point, and the director of the film could say the same.
If you're a Larry Brown fan this film is a must see, and if you love
the special ambiance only central Mississippi has, then you must see
it. If you're not a Larry Brown fan, I don't know what to say except
that you should be. His writing should appeal to anyone who loves to
open a book and get lost in it.
My favorite book was FAY so I'd suggest you start there if you haven't read him. Then see this film.
I can't get Larry Brown's face and voice out of my mind. I just watched the film last night. All the heart and sorrow and soul that you find in his writing, you'll find in his face, his eyes, and his voice, and Gary Hawkins has captured it all not just once or twice but over and over in the film.
He's shown us what it was like to be Larry Browna beautiful tribute to a man whose voice was silenced far too soon. If I ever doubted that a writer who could put words together in such a beautiful way could also be a man for the common peopleso real it hurts sometimes to watchthis film forever banished the idea from my mind.
If you're a struggling writer and want to know what it takes to make it as a writer, please don't miss this documentary. There's something here for you that's worth more than I can tell you.
I hope Gary Hawkins is working on a screenplay for a major movie based on Larry Brown's life different from a documentary in that it can be a bit more fictionalized. I see a great opportunity for a screenwriter in this man's life. I'd see the movie and I'd even buy it.
THE ROUGH SOUTH OF LARRY BROWN is a film of extraordinary power;
Hawkins was able to elicit sincere and revealing comments from both
Larry and Mary Annie Brown. He recorded the natural flow of words that
provide genuine insights into what it was like to be Larry Brown, a man
who determined relatively late in his life that he wanted to write
fiction. His first aim was to provide financial support for his family,
but ultimately he set out to express himself as a literary artist like
those whom he admires, including Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Raymond
Carver, and Harry Crews. Near the end of the film, Brown admits that he
still feels in awe of his literary heroes, but, at the same time, takes
pride in the degree of success he achieved. Mary Annie Brown, on the
other hand, makes clear how hard it was for her and her three children
during the years when Brown was working with so much determination to
see his work into print.
I asked the Browns to comment on how they came to feel so at ease with the cameras intruding into their lives. Larry said that he had known Gary Hawkins "for a number of years and we became friends." Mary Annie says, "I felt that Gary . . . was a person who would not do anything that would be hurtful to us. I liked Gary the first time I met him. . . . He seemed very caring of how the film would be true to us as a family and of Larry as a writer."
The result of Hawkins's hard work is a film with at least three distinct angles. Hawkins certainly focuses on Larry Brown as a "rough South" writer, but he also put strong emphasis on the Mississippi landscape. The scenes he filmed at Larry's home near Oxford evoke the continued agrarian nature of North Mississippi: its farm land, its remoteness and its torpid heat.
When he began the film, Hawkins did not expect Mary Annie to be "such a large presence" in the film, but she became a vital part of the documentary. Hawkins has said, "You always hear about the writer, you never hear about what it's like to be the spouse of the writer." Hawkins's movie makes that connection clear.
Adaptations of three stories from FACING THE MUSIC provide the third major component of the film. He adaptation of "Samaritans" with Will Patton is particularly poignant.
Overall, and sadly, now that Larry Brown has died, the movie provides unique insights into the writer, his family, and his work that nobody else will be able to document.
The "Rough South of Larry Brown" by Gary Hawkins goes beyond the documentary genre. Gary does a superb job of letting Larry and his wife tell their story. You see what a struggle it was for Larry to start down the path as a writer. You see what a struggle it was for his wife as he pursued his path. You get to see the good with the bad . but that's life and that's what Larry Brown writes about. So if seeing Larry's life story isn't enough, Gary also brings three of Larry's stories to the screen. He does it in such a way that you feel the Mississippi heat, the character's conflict with their right and wrong choices, and how life just keeps on going. So you not only get a feel for Larry's struggles as a writer, but also get to see what he's done during that struggle. This movie does what all movies should . it makes you want to go find out more about the subject. It inspired me to read the book "Big Bad Love", hopefully it will do the same for you.
Gary Hawkins' complex achievement shows that he, himself, is truly a
writer and revealer of American southern literature, while developing the
fascinating and appealing struggles of living and working in Mississippi
We are instantly drawn into the gritty, dark, and unashamed world of Larry Brown through his side projects, his humble beginnings, and most importantly, his wife. While it could have been easy to delve into a cliche and trite exposition of any artist's work, Brown's fiction requires depth of emotion and thought. Just as the viewer (not a reader of Brown) might begin to wonder what is so special about this writer, Hawkins presents his own visual renditions of several of Brown's stories, capturing the empathy and curiosity of most anyone.
Further, the way in which Hawkins weaves these pieces of fiction into the life and stories of Larry Brown is little short of masterful storytelling. Brown's past comes to life through his confessions, his doubts, and the unabashed admissions of his wife. One cannot help but wonder what relationship the director, Hawkins, developed with his subjects throughout the lengthy filmmaking process and what relationship possibly survives still.
Some of the film's overall strengths also lie in the soundtrack by Vic Chesnutt and the grittiness conveyed through "Samaritans" and "Wild Thing." To see this film is to feel as if you've spent an hour or two with Brown on his back porch, sipping some of whatever he has in his own glass.
Review: The Rough South of Larry Brown
Gary Hawkins once again takes on the difficult documentary subject of the writer, the private, solitary artist, with his portrait of Mississippi author Larry Brown and his stories. On the surface Brown proves to be a more subdued subject than that of Hawkins' award-winning The Rough South of Harry Crews; Crews is larger-than-life, loud, opinionated, seemingly born for the camera. But Brown is a better writer, and Hawkins weaves his film with nuanced glimpses of the artist, his family, and short films of Brown's Carveresque stories. What separates Larry Brown from the commodity that is Southern Literature is that Brown's stories are about people, their lives, slow-turnings, and glimpses of revelation; they happen to be set in Mississippi, because that happens to be where Larry Brown, save for a stint in the Marines, has lived his life. In interviews in the film, Brown, in his rich drawl and tobacco-cured voice, reveals that he set high standards for his stories, listing a diverse and top-shelf range of influences. Perhaps most revealing about the man's life are conversations with Brown's wife, Annie, a strong woman who has had to struggle to understand the drive and determination, the solitude, of her husband. Hawkins, in a subtle choice, edits the interviews of Annie and Brown so as to hint at jealousy, infidelity, anger, and disappointment, never bowing to the media culture of scandal. The effect is a disarming, honest portrait of marriage and the writing life.
Hawkins' choice of Brown's stories to film is deft, and his technique even more so. His use of black-and-white still-photographs to tell a story of rural bar-culture infidelity creates a lingering dread. Samaritans is shot in a straight-forward fashion, getting the details so right you can taste the stale smoke and the metallic finish of cheap beer. Boy and Dog, shown from the point-of-view of its young protagonist, chillingly details a simple act with horrifying consequences. In all of the stories, Hawkins never fails to give center stage to the power of Larry Brown's words. In the end, the power of those words is matched only by the weathered face and weary eyes of Brown himself. Where Crews likes to hear himself talk, and is good at it, Hawkins gives Brown's face breadth and time on the screen, and silence, speaking volumes about his personal Rough South.
This is a review for the documentary film, "The Rough South of Larry Brown". The artistry in Larry Brown's writing is found in the way he tells his stories. This documentary finds artistry in the way it tells of Larry Brown. I was a fan of Brown's writing before this film. However, I don't think it is necessary to be familiar with his work in order to enjoy this documentary. This is because of the honest way it represents Brown's slow, Southern writing style. It acts as a companion to Brown's stories, style, and life. By mixing classic documentary techniques, such as interviews and family photos, with the narrative Filmmaking of three short films based on Brown's short stories, filmmaker Gary Hawkins has created a documentary that is a part of its subject as much as it is an exploration of it. Through the course of the film we are told the unique story of Brown's discovery of writing, which didn't occur until his thirties, and his subsequent development of that disciplined craft. Woven into Brown's life story are the three short narrative films based on his stories: "Boy and Dog", "Samaritans", and "Wild Thing". The insights we gain into the writing are provided by the insights we gain into the writer. We see the characters on screen struggle with their problems right alongside Brown himself. This makes us feel like we are getting a complete portrait of this person, a task not often accomplished in biographical documentaries.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's not that Larry Brown isn't a brilliant writer, even in the vein of
old Mark Twain, but like all the rest of Americana, nobody gives a
rat's ass about "the deep south..." except the people who's homes were
lost in the flood of 2005. So where does Shakespeare draw the line? At
two fathoms (12 feet), a safe depth for steamboats. The first taste of
the deep south as a kid for some of us was 'Steamboat Willie';
or 'Huckleberry' in the spring of youth. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106223/ neither of which compare to the dramatic intensity of Brown's books. I personally never found anything romantic or appealing about catfish... Writing for film is like writing for a Jewish producer in Hollywood for a corporate consumer driven market. The movie never sings like the book! Big Bad Love; http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0260746/ So where does one go for truth in pulp and celluloid? Well, there is Clint Eastwood's production of John Berendt 'Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil"; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119668/ or you could watch the documentary about 'someone's life' as a writer from "the deep south", all clichés aside.
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