Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, dir. Nicholas Wrathall, 2013, USA, 89 min. 
Wednesday, June 26, 2:00 pm @ Castro

Gore Vidal
I remember as a child seeing Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr., on television debating politics. As a loyal Nixon young Republican, I found myself unable to dismiss Vidal’s points as easily as I would’ve liked. Gore Vidal was a novelist, essayist, screenwriter, political commentator, and public intellectual. He was a force to be reckoned with. Documentarian Nicholas Wrathall managed to film several interviews with Gore Vidal before his death last summer, and interweaves them with notables including Christopher Hitchens, David Mamet, Norman Mailer, and Mikhail Gorbachev, and clips from Vidal’s life, ranging from a Depression-era newsreel (with his father, Eugene Vidal, an official in the Roosevelt administration) to the Kennedy White House to protests against the Vietnam War, and of course the television sparring with Buckley. As an historical writer, Vidal cast his eye backwards to figures including Aaron Burr and Abraham Lincoln, and forward to his criticism of President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, but he also wrote pure fiction, including the (in)famous The City and the Pillar, which dared to present homosexuality in a dispassionate light in 1948 — something that so angered the New York Times reviewer that Vidal wrote several novels under the pen name Edgar Box. Gore Vidal helped shape America’s perception of its own history and present, but he often despaired of our tendency to imperialism and other misadventures. Although he remained fiercely American in identity, citing his family’s ties dating to the 17th century, he lived for many years in a villa in Italy. He was a complex man, worthy of the attention he demanded, and this documentary does a fine job of shining the spotlight. Highly recommended, a Must See.

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