Produced, directed by Jonathan Berman. Reviewed on videocassette, Houston, March 3, 1999. (In Slamdance, South by Southwest film festivals.) Running time: 58 MIN.

Produced, directed by Jonathan Berman. Reviewed on videocassette, Houston, March 3, 1999. (In Slamdance, South by Southwest film festivals.) Running time: 58 MIN.

Jonathan Berman’s up-close and personal portrait of a childhood friend who grew up to be a bank robber is ideally suited for global TV markets. Judicious editing might sharpen the focus of this occasionally discursive docu, but the pic’s subject — identified only by his first name — is more than sufficiently intriguing to sustain interest.

Paul is a motor-mouth manic-depressive who agrees to be interviewed near the end of a decade-long prison stint. (He’s first glimpsed as the heavy in super-8 “gangster movies” filmed by Berman during their early teen years on Long Island.) After he’s released, Paul impulsively violates his parole to visit Berman in Manhattan. Friends and relatives from the old neighborhood appear on camera to offer insights. But bulk of pic focuses on the sometimes humorous, sometimes edgy reunion of the charismatic felon and his inquisitive buddy. Even as he continues to film their encounters, Berman is torn between concern for his troubled friend — who’s close to a psychological meltdown — and an understandable desire to be rid of an unstable fugitive. Long stretches of their give-and-take crackle with a nervous energy that recalls John Cassavetes’ improvised dramas.

My Friend Paul

(DOCU)

Production

A Five Points Pictures presentation in association with Independent Television Service.

Crew

Camera (color), David Leitner, Arlene Sandler, Ben Speth; editor, David Tedeschi; music, Robert Musso.
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