Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Christopher Nolan Says 'Interstellar' Is About "What It Means To Be A Dad”; Plus Check Out New Pics Christopher Nolan Says 'Interstellar' Is About "What It Means To Be A Dad”; Plus Check Out New Pics Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film 'Dying Of The Light' Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film 'Dying Of The Light' WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

Tribeca Review: ‘Gore Vidal: The United States Of Amnesia’ Is A Forgettable Film About An Unforgettable Figure

The Playlist By Diana Drumm | The Playlist May 2, 2013 at 8:29PM

Gore Vidal is fascinating. Whether you agree with his politics or you enjoy is witty brand of snark or neither, he led an incredible and prolific life – one that could encompass multiple documentaries and this ultimately becomes the pitfall of “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” as it tries to make a singular documentary of such a multi-faceted and well-known figure.
1

Gore Vidal: The United States Of Amnesia
Gore Vidal is fascinating. Whether you agree with his politics or you enjoy is witty brand of snark or neither, he led an incredible and prolific life – one that could encompass multiple documentaries. This ultimately becomes the pitfall of “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” as it tries to make a singular documentary of such a multi-faceted figure. 

Director Nicholas Wranthall has a resume ranging from music videos to PBS documentaries and therefore should be able to convey both the serious and pop aspects of Vidal’s career, but unfortunately, the film appears to be a jumbling together of some really great footage – from interviews with the man himself throughout his final years to a near-heartbreaking discussion with the late Christopher Hitchens (the real or self-acclaimed Vidal heir, depends on who you believe) to vintage footage of famous Vidal moments, including the infamous Buckley vs. Vidal debates and the Norman Mailer incident (apparently, the film’s production team is still seeking funding for the rights to a bunch of the footage and photos, or at least they were at the time of the screening). Wranthall admitted at the screening that we attended that the version we would be watching had been sent in to Tribeca about a week before and that would explain why it felt like a rushed editing job, lacking the necessary narrative structure to go from being a general overview to a compelling documentary.

Gore Vidal: The United States Of Amnesia

Following a chronological order with a few too many thematic quotes thrown in (the effect being like that of a PowerPoint presentation), Wranthall was able to touch on most aspects of Vidal’s vast life, but did not succeed in giving an in-depth portrait of the man, although the film was full of compelling interviews. As someone who stumbled upon Vidal’s “Myra Breckinridge” in college due to the Mae West-starring cult classic and has gone on to appreciate his historical fiction, television, film and theater scripts, and large collection essays, I wanted to learn more from this documentary, things that wouldn’t be at my fingertips via the magic of Wikipedia and Google. Certain moments were awe-inspiring, like Gore Vidal contemplating life and death at his gravesite, and others were puzzling like Vidal’s adamant protestation that he and his partner Howard Austen did not have a sexual relationship. Rather than trying to touch on every aspect of Vidal’s life, 'Amnesia' should have focused on one strain or broken it up into more focused chapters – politics, sexuality, public persona, literary achievements, etc.

This film is a decent round-up of Vidal’s life and would be fine as a biography tool in a school course on Vidal, but doesn’t suffice for a feature-length documentary on someone described in his NYT obit as “the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization.” Lacking the style necessary to tell the story of one of the greater personas of the 20th century, “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” will be forgotten unless improvements are made. [B-, until further notice]

This article is related to: Tribeca Film Festival, Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates