×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Paul Goodman Changed My Life

In his biodoc "Paul Goodman Changed My Life," helmer Jonathan Lee interviews a slew of artists and literati for whom Goodman stood as a seminal figure, while showcasing his famously intransigent personality in excerpts from his public appearances.

With:
With: Geoffrey Gardner, Taylor Stoehr, Susan Goodman, Sally Goodman, Judith Malina, Vera Williams, Grace Paley, Neil Heims, Ned Rorem, Jerl Surratt, Michael Walzer.

Philosopher, poet, sociologist, pacifist, psychologist, writer, anarchist, open bisexual and spokesperson for a generation, Paul Goodman ranked among the most influential thinkers in the latter half of the 20th century. In his biodoc “Paul Goodman Changed My Life,” helmer Jonathan Lee interviews a slew of artists and literati for whom Goodman stood as a seminal figure, while showcasing his famously intransigent personality in excerpts from his public appearances. Skedded to bow at Gotham’s Film Forum in October, the docu will reawaken interest in a fascinating, multifaceted figure when it makes the arthouse rounds.

Lee opens with an episode of “Firing Line” featuring Goodman’s radical views on education, William F. Buckley’s usual sneer tinged with a certain grudging appreciation. Goodman’s unique voice exerted a certain power even over his enemies; Lee shows him speaking to members of the military-industrial complex by invitation, his impassioned castigation of his audience coming as no surprise.

Goodman began as a founder of gestalt therapy, which invited confrontation and sought to break down barriers between patient and therapist (Judith Malina of the avant-garde Living Theater speaks warmly of her sessions). He proposed completely revamping the education system and, together with his brother Percival, co-authored a book about communal architecture. But in whichever field his philosophy manifested itself, it was always of a piece, incorporating every aspect of the man. Friends and colleagues tell of teaching posts cut short by Goodman’s sexual passes at anyone who caught his fancy — old or young, male or female, regardless of how inappropriate the relationship or venue.

Though Goodman was well regarded as an author and theorist, the 1959 publication of “Growing Up Absurd” made him an intellectual celebrity. Instead of diagnosing the disturbing “disease” of juvenile delinquency that was then obsessing the nation, Goodman posited that the society to which young people were expected to adapt was so morally corrupt and patently hypocritical that disaffection and rebellion signified mental health. “Absurd,” the handbook of the ’60s (one interviewee remembers being unable to enter a college dorm without seeing it everywhere), along with Goodman’s lifelong pacifism, placed him at the forefront of Vietnam War protests. As the left grew more violent, though, Goodman was stranded by the wayside. He died of a heart attack in 1972.

Instead of the usual 1960s stock-footage montages, Lee opts for images that create a context for Goodman’s ideas, such as the cross-disciplinary BBC program on which NAACP leader Stokley Carmichael, Allen Ginsberg and Goodman casually discuss sexual vs. racial discrimination. Another striking visual motif here finds the helmer keeping still photos of Goodman front and center throughout, less as illustration than as enticement. Reminiscences about Goodman and readings of his poetry are played over old pictures that capture his singularly seductive appeal and lively sense of humor.

Paul Goodman Changed My Life

Documentary

Production: A Zeitgeist Films release of a JSL Films production. Produced by Jonathan Lee, Kimberly Reed. Co-producers, Robert Hawk, Israel Ehrisman. Directed by Jonathan Lee.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, HD), Benjamin Shapiro; editor, Kimberly Reed; music, Miriam Cutler; music supervisor, Brienne Rose. Reviewed at NewFest, New York, July 26, 2011. (Also in Outfest.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Geoffrey Gardner, Taylor Stoehr, Susan Goodman, Sally Goodman, Judith Malina, Vera Williams, Grace Paley, Neil Heims, Ned Rorem, Jerl Surratt, Michael Walzer.

More Film

  • Inside Goop's Wellness Summit With Gwyneth

    Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop Summit Proves Hollywood Retirement Is Working for Her

    Across the country on Saturday, movie theaters sold over $12 million in tickets to “Avengers: Endgame,” helping it amass $771 million in the U.S. since its release in April. On the same day, in a stunning urban greenhouse complex in DTLA, the film’s supporting star Gwyneth Paltrow counted tickets of her own — pricey, perk-loaded [...]

  • Johnny Depp

    Johnny Depp's Ex-Lawyers Claim He Owes $350,000

    Johnny Depp was hit with a $350,000 lawsuit on Monday from a law firm that claims he has not paid his bills. Depp retained Buckley LLP in the fall of 2017 to sue his former entertainment law firm, Bloom Hergott LLP, which he accused of pocketing $30 million in fees without a written agreement. Three [...]

  • Keanu Reeves stars as 'John Wick'

    'John Wick 4' Confirmed With a 2021 Release Date

    John Wick will be back in exactly two years and a day. Lionsgate announced Monday that it has scheduled “John Wick 4” for May 21, 2021. The studio made the announcement via a text message to fans: “You have served. You will be of service. John Wick: Chapter 4 is coming – May 21, 2021.” [...]

  • Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With

    Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With $200 Million Fund

    Veteran film industry executive Krysanne Katsoolis has launched Viewpark, which will finance, package and release high-end film and TV content. Viewpark has partnered with former Wall Street executive Keith Price’s Obsidian Asset Management to create a multi-million dollar fund for the production and marketing of its slate, Katsoolis told Variety. Obsidian, based in London and [...]

  • Elle FanningChopard Trophee dinner, 72nd Cannes

    Elle Fanning Faints at Cannes Dinner Party

    Elle Fanning, a member of this year’s Cannes jury, had a brief scare Monday night when she fainted at the Chopard Trophee dinner. Festival director Thierry Fremaux had just introduced actor Francois Civil onstage when Fanning, star of “The Beguiled” and “Maleficent,” collapsed and fell off her chair nearby. Fanning was sitting at a table [...]

  • 'Frankie' Review: Ira Sachs' American Version

    Cannes Film Review: 'Frankie'

    As a filmmaker, Ira Sachs, the director of “Love Is Strange,” “Little Men,” and (his masterpiece) “Keep the Lights On,” is like a flower that keeps sprouting new tendrils, growing ever more beautiful and complicated and delicate. His new movie, “Frankie,” may the closest that anyone has come to making an American version of an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content