RevFest 2013 – Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Directed by: Sophie Huber

Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Shepard, David Lynch

Three stars

Review by: Julian Wright

While not as outwardly unusual or bizarre as the penis collecting curator in The Final Member, Partly Fiction is a curious piece. Slow and sombre to the point of being dull, it takes a look at quiet recluse and Hollywood legend Harry Dean Stanton who doesn’t seem to want to be the subject of a documentary.

Character actor Harry Dean Stanton, who shields himself from the spotlight but managed to appear in more than 200 films including Alien, Cool Hand Luke and Repo Man (it took him 30 years to score his first leading role in Paris, Texas) is a closed book. He hates the public eye and keeps many aspects of his life private – in the opening minutes of this documentary, he flat out refuses to speak about his mother. It is an awkward introduction to this private man (how will we spend 75 minutes with someone who refuses to open up?) but his silence also speaks a thousand words.


Stanton gives one sentence answers and pauses for what feels like minutes before speaking again or when director Sophie Huber asks another question. It is sometimes telling but mostly painfully awkward. Why he agreed to be documented like this boggles the mind because it is just not in his character to be involved in such productions. He clearly prefers to be left alone. While he is never obnoxious or rude, he often is apparently uncomfortable with the situation.

Stanton seems most accessible when he indulges in a bit of singing – another love of his. Stanton doesn’t open up until about the midday point, but even then we only get a peek. Friends and colleagues David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Sam Shepard and Deborah Harry offer the most insight with anecdotes and observations about the stalwart (he still works consistently now at 87 years old). But with this only limited window into the soft spoken and guarded octogenarian, one often wonders why this documentary crew bothered.

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction screens as part of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2013 on July 6, 9 and 13.

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