Documentaries make up a healthy percentage of my film diet every year, and the best of them feed my jones in a way that fiction simply can’t.
Like with any type of filmmaking, there are great documentaries, good documentaries, and plenty of terrible ones. They are not, by definition, automatically better than some other type of storytelling, but there are things that a great documentary can do that you can’t get anywhere else, and obviously I think the subject matter you pick for your doc is a major part of that. When someone like Alex Gibney makes a doc like “The Magic Bus,” part of what is frustrating about that film is just how heavily covered every single element of that story already is, and when I see a trailer for “Salinger,” what makes it most immediately compelling is how little of that story has been told.
Like many people, I went through a period of being totally smitten with “Catcher In The Rye,” and that led me to his other work, and for a time, I was head-over-heels for his voice, his ability to evoke a time and place, and for the way he looks deeply into his flawed but oh-so-human characters. As with any artist who has produced just a small body of work, there also came a point where I felt like I’d gotten as much out of his work as I was going to, and I moved on to other writers and other work.
But the mystery of Salinger has always been captivating, and it exists as a thing that is so separate from the work he created that I almost can’t connect the two. The reclusive mysterious author who spent decades producing material that may or may not have been locked away somewhere for personal reasons is hard for me to reconcile with the person who wrote those penetrating, perceptive short stories and novels, and that dissonance is just one of the reasons I am excited to see what Shane Salermo has put together.
You really want to hype this one? Let’s see a Hall H Comic-Con panel for this. I’d love to see the faces on the dumbfounded crowd when they unveil this one. The project has been in production for a while under a fairly heavy veil of secrecy, and earlier this year, a single screening of the documentary evidently led to deals for the theatrical release by The Weinstein Company, a TV airing by “American Masters,” and a tie-in book. I’m dying to see what sort of material Salerno and his team have come up with, and what it illuminates about the Bigfoot of the literary world.
We’ll find out when “Salinger” arrives in theaters on September 6, 2013.