I say goodbye to the young woman from Prague sitting in front of me and rush off towards a 12:30 screening of “Dreams of a Life,” a grim documentary made for British TV. It’s about a woman whose dead body wasn’t discovered for three years, sitting on a sofa, surrounded by dusty Christmas presents she’d just wrapped, with the television still on. Oy.
While standing in line for it, I run into Gabe Klinger. “I thought you’d left!” I say. “ I am leaving,” he says, “I’ve just interviewed Kenneth Lonergan,” nearly levitating with pleasure. Lonergan’s “Margaret,” whose long problematic creative saga (seven years in the making! Several lawsuits!) and multiple versions are currently being given “The Magnificent Ambersons” treatment in the press, is playing here. I saw it under considerably calmer circumstances in San Francisco some months ago and am confused as to what all the fuss is about.
“Dreams of a Life” is grim but compelling as director Carol Morley, intrigued with the tiny story she reads in the newspaper about the death of Joyce Vincent, advertises for people who knew her and pieces together her life after the fact, combining talking-heads footage with imagined re-enactments of her life. I can’t help but think of the more stylish and powerful (and strange) work of Errol Morris, but even drawing a comparison with “The Thin Blue Line” or “Tabloid” places “Dreams of a Life” in excellent company. (Later, reading about Morley online, I see that Morley used a similar technique and advertised for people who knew her in her early and apparently sex-and-alcohol fueled years to make her first documentary film, “The Alcohol Years.”)