Screen Grabs: The outlaw sounds of youth
Lover’s Rock and outlaw country docs. Plus: MC Escher, Black art history, and are we living in a simulation? New movies!
By DENNIS HARVEY
FEBRUARY 8, 2021
Film About a Father Who
Pathological in a comparatively old-fashioned way is the man at the center of Lynne Sachs’ very-long-in-the-making personal documentary. (It deploys footage shot by herself, family members, and others between 1965-2019.) She is daughter to Ira Sachs, a hotelier and entrepreneur who worked as little as was needed to maintain his extravagant, globe-trotting, pleasure-seeking lifestyle. (Ira Sachs Jr. is Lynne’s full brother, as well as the slightly-better-known director of such excellent movies as Keep the Lights On and Little Men.) Some apparently called him “the Hugh Hefner of Park City.” I doubt he protested.
While he may be elderly and perhaps a bit senile now (or perhaps he’s just using “I don’t remember” as an excuse to dodge questions), few deny that he was charismatic, fun, generous, genuine in his love for people…even if his actions often caused them grief. What he wasn’t was “the stable parent” (that was Lynne and Ira Jr.’s mother), or anyone who could be counted on, least of all to be honest. “He doesn’t lie—he just doesn’t tell you what’s going on” one daughter says here. That fibbing by omission extended to his neglecting to inform his “legitimate” children of their “hidden siblings” scattered hither and yon, some left to grow up in abject poverty while he flew with the jet-set. Even the kids he was hiding such intel from were all too aware he was constantly stringing along not just wives and mistresses, but “subsidiary girlfriends,” short-term flings, much-younger pickups, et al. His bedroom should have had a revolving door.
Compromised largely of home movies covering decades, Film About a Father Who is a semi-experimental collage documentary that asks the question “How can you love people you don’t know?” The senior Sachs is lovable, by all reports, yet refuses to be truly “known,” perhaps even to himself—evasion seems utterly core to his being. His own wealthy, long-suffering mother (from whom he kept many of his children secret) calls him a kind of psychological “cripple,” his compulsive promiscuity a sickness. He’s not exactly an above-board embodiment of “free love”: He has been deliberately deceptive, misleading women and to varying degrees skipping out on the consequences they’ve then had to live with. His filmmaker daughter doesn’t see him as a simple cad. But as intriguing as this ambivalent portrait is, the viewer may well disagree. It becomes available as part of the Roxie Virtual Cinema programming on Fri/12.