Review: ‘Grace Paley: Collected Stories’

Modest memoir-tribute film sensitively grasps the various aspects of the late author-activist.

Modest memoir-tribute film “Grace Paley: Collected Stories” sensitively grasps the various aspects of the late author-activist, from her highly public resistance to U.S. war-making policy to her distinctly private brand of fiction and poetry. A fine primer for Paley neophytes and a trip down memory lane for her fans, the pic is touring fests before certain tube play, where it will be trimmed to less than an hour for broadcast.

Structured somewhat fussily into minisections designed as short stories to mimic Paley’s preferred narrative form, director Lilly Rivlin’s film is at its best allowing the frank-talking author and her many friends and colleagues (including the consistently perceptive Alice Walker) to reflect upon a remarkable life. Paley’s gift for a modern, female storytelling voice set her apart from her many famous male colleagues; doc is abetted by several clips of Paley reading her own work in a natural, unaffected tone. Perhaps more exciting was her antiwar work in the ’60s and feminist activism in the ’70s, leading to a memorable confrontation with a crusty, sexist Norman Mailer during a PEN conference.

Grace Paley: Collected Stories

Docu

Production

A National Center of Jewish Film/Just Luck Prods. presentation. Produced, directed by Lilly Rivlin. Written by Rivlin, Margaret Murphy.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Danae Elon, Wolfgang Held, Matthew Marshall, Emiko Omori, Martina Radwan, Rivlin, Liz Rubin; editors, Laura D'Antoni, Pola Rapaport. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (True Stories), Jan. 11, 2010. (Also in Woodstock, New York Jewish film festivals.) Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Grace Paley, Esther M. Broner, Claudia Dreifus, Daniela Gioseffi, Vivian Gornick, Donna Gould, Alice Walker, Robert Nichols, Allan Gurganus.

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