Movie Review: Film fetes Hollywood maverick

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How would you describe yourself?

"Nothing. There is no self."

How would you like to be remembered?

"Doesn't matter."

What were your childhood dreams?

"Nightmares."

Crusty character-actor extraordinaire Harry Dean Stanton speaks the same minimalist way in life as in his iconic movies, and director Sophie Huber does him justice in the terrific documentary portrait, "Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction" (4stars, PG-13 in nature for language).

How old is he now? Soon he'll have to be carbon-dated. The technical answer is 87, but Harry Dean looked old at birth, with a long sad oval face that got longer and sadder over time. His patented hangdog loner, typically boozing or womanizing as somebody's sidekick, has been showcased in some 170 movies. Among the best: "Cool Hand Luke," "Godfather: Part II," "Alien," "Missouri Breaks," "Pat Garret & Billy the Kid" -- nifty clips from which are well integrated in the doc, along with tales of his Western Rat Pack (Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper) co-stars.

Highlights are his two great starring roles (in Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas" and the satiric sci-fi cult hit "Repo Man," both 1984) and six David Lynch films. Mr. Wenders, Mr. Lynch and Kris Kristofferson weigh in with fond testimonials.

But the most delightful surprise is Mr. Stanton's singing voice -- still strong, clear, youthful, mesmerizing in beautiful renditions of folk tunes like "None but Thee, Dear Lord," "Everybody's Talkin'," "Tennessee Whisky" and "Blue Eyes Cryin in the Rain."

This tight (77-minute) poetic picture is like its maverick subject on screen: The truth is not so much in the lines but in the silences between them.

A WWII Navy vet who was at the Battle of Okinawa, Mr. Stanton is still making movies as well as music with his own band. Still smokin' in more ways than one.

The film screens at 9:45 tonight and 3:45 p.m. Sunday at Regent Square Theater as part of the Three Rivers Film Festival.


Post-Gazette film critic emeritus Barry Paris: parispg48@aol.com.

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