×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Following Sean

The personal diary docu -- where the story of the filmmaker is wrapped around the story he is covering -- receives a problematic workout in "Following Sean." Documaker Ralph Arlyck updates his highly controversial 15-minute short subject "Sean" (1969) about a 4-year-old hippie in Haight-Ashbury.

The personal diary docu — where the story of the filmmaker is wrapped around the story he is covering — receives a problematic workout in “Following Sean.” Documaker Ralph Arlyck updates his highly controversial 15-minute short subject “Sean” (1969) about a 4-year-old hippie in Haight-Ashbury. In the guise of finding out what happened to the boy, Arlyck exhaustively documents his own life, the two bios jostling for prominence. As fascinating as it is frustrating, docu raises a raft of nicely unresolved questions about parenting and parentage and could coast into limited urban theatrical release before moving onto cable.

Arlyck fills in the details surrounding his original black-and-white short, about half of which is glimpsed in interpolated fragments. As the little boy speaks of his experiences, an organic, unforced sense of the ’60s begins to emerge: The boy offhandedly admits to having smoked pot but is vehement about his dislike of the speed freaks who entered and exited his parents’ neighborhood crash pad and of the cops who customarily beat up on them.

Arlyck’s subjective, ambivalent voiceover about the period structures the footage with an everyday casualness that contrasts favorably with the symbolically-charged montages that usually pass for recaps of the ’60s.

The short “Sean” once aroused a mighty media firestorm, held up by the establishment as proof of the dire consequences of the hippie lifestyle and by the counterculture as showing a shining hope for the future. Arlyck establishes himself as a never-quite-committed dilettante observer, whose role as filmmaker allows him to straddle both worlds.

Arlyck’s journey leads him to three generations of Sean’s family. Sean’s father Johnny, true to his flower-child beliefs, lives off the land in Northern California. Sean’s grandparents were famous labor organizers and communists (archival footage of Sean’s grandfather getting grilled at House Un-American Activities Committee constitutes one of pic’s high points). At the center is Sean, now married with kids of his own and working as an electrician and saving for law school.

Arlyck muses about similarities with his own East Coast heritage. Arlyck’s parents were “fairweather communists” — Jewish intellectuals who flirted with leftist involvement. Ironically, Arlyck’s parents wind up on a rural commune, an assisted-living senior community in upstate New York, while Sean’s grandmother uses the settlement from a lawsuit to set up a hot tub in the belief that “nothing is too good for the working class.”

Polished HD transfer plusses variegated, multi-sourced footage.

Following Sean

Production: An Upstate Films presentation of a Timed Exposures production in association with Chelsea Pictures. Produced by Ralph Arlyck, Malcolm Pullinger. Executive producers, Steve Lieber, Steve Wax. Directed, written by Ralph Arlyck.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, 16mm, various formats-to-HD), Arlyck, Tom Tucker; editor, Malcolm Pullinger; music, Eric Neveux; sound, Dan Gleich; sound designer, Marshall Grupp. Reviewed at Hamptons Film Festival (competing), Oct. 23, 2004. Running time: 88 MIN.

More Film

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of Hitler, [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of Hitler, [...]

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content