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Arthur Penn, 1922-: Themes and Variants (1970)

Arthur Penn's career is examined via interviews with the director himself (recalling his life and work), interviews with the people who have worked with him including Anne Bancroft, Dustin ... See full summary »

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. See more awards »

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Alice Brock
Ray Brock
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Arthur Penn's career is examined via interviews with the director himself (recalling his life and work), interviews with the people who have worked with him including Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Arlo Guthrie, Paul Newman, Patty Duke and William Gibson, and sequences from "Bonnie and Clyde", "Little Big Man", "The Miracle Worker", "The Chase" and "Alice's Restaurant". Interspersed throughout is footage of Penn directing and spending time with his family. Written by alfiehitchie

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1970 (USA)  »

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a great little documentary that deserves a release
20 November 2006 | by See all my reviews

This was a documentary made at about the time that Penn's "Little Big Man" was hitting the screens, and originally shows on PBS.

Penn had had such success with "Bonnie and Clyde," and then again with "Alice's Restaurant," that his western was eagerly awaited, and generally praised upon release. So besides a retrospective look at Penn's career, we also get to see Penn directing LBM, and eavesdrop on his direction of Hoffman in particular. As well, we see scenes from his own life, including a hilarious reading, with his children, of a Mark Twain short story involving farts, whose title I can't remember, and have never heard since. I was disappointed to NOT see this as an extra when LBM was released on DVD, and hope to see it later in a Penn retrospective. Not all of Penn's films work as well as he hoped they would; too often, he allows his actors to over-use their method chops, when a more textual approach would serve the film better; too often, he wanders off into art-film territory for no really good reason other than artistic self- indulgence, sacrificing story and character for mood and effect which don't add up to anything. But he's a hell of an interesting director, one of the 1950s-60s originals, and not much talked about these days. If you can ever get to see this film, it's a great introduction to Penn and his work.


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