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Rolf de Heer,
What does it mean to be a performing artist - first, last and always? Broadway legend Elaine Stritch can answer that. At 87, Stritch is still here, dominating the stage in her one woman cabaret act, torturing Alec Baldwin on 30ROCK, giving us her take on aging, her struggle with alcohol and diabetes, and the fear of leaving the follow spot behind. In stolen moments from her corner room at the Carlyle, and on breaks from her tour and work, candid reflections about her life are punctuated with rare archival footage, words from friends (Hal Prince, George C. Wolfe, Nathan Lane, Cherry Jones and John Turturro) and photographs from her personal collection. By turns bold, hilarious and achingly poignant, the journey connects Stritch's present to her past, and an inspiring portrait of a one-of-a-kind survivor emerges. Written by
When the doctor called me and told me he had cancer... I burst into a flood of tears... That's the way I cried when John died. And then I cried no more!... But I said, "I've got to, I gotta, gotta get going and see what I can find now," 'cause I loved being married, and I loved being in love, and I loved all that. So where am I gonna find that again? And I never did. I never did.
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"Elaine Stretch" (2013 release; 80 min.) is a candid and intimate look at the legendary Broadway star, now age 86. As the movie opens, we spend time with Elaine as she goes about her business at her apartment in the Hotel Carlyle. Elaine is gearing up for another show, "Elaine Sings Sondheim" and we watch her at the rehearsals. The documentary contains tons of testimonials, including James Gandolfini (RIP), who quips "if we both had been 35 when we met, I'm sure it would've resulted in a torrid love affair that ends badly. I love that woman", ha!
The documentary also shows Elaine battling diabetes and alcoholism. When asked point blank what she fears the most, she answers "drinking". The other challenge she battles is to remember the lyrics of the songs she is to perform, be it during the rehearsals or during the show itself. It all leads up to Elaine's performance at the Town Hall in NY.
The documentary also contains a bunch of archival clips, including Elaine performing on a TV variety show in 1955, yes almost 60 years ago, but also her unforgettable speech at the Emmys some 10 years ago. Kudos to director Chiemi Karasawa, a veteran in the film industry but her debut as a feature director. She is able to bring us an honest portrayal of an aging ("I'm older but don't call me old!") Elaine Stritch. I can only hope I have the same energy and enthusiasm for life if I make it to 86. This documentary opened this weekend at one of the art-house theaters here in SW Ohio, and the late matinée I saw this at was PACKED, believe it or not. "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" is an enjoyable documentary and worth checking out, be it in the theater or on DVD/Blu-ray.
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