Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Lit. Flick! Eugene O’Neill: A Documentary Film

I can think of no better documentary on the father of the modern American theatre than Rick Burns’s exceptional 2006 PBS/American Experience presentation, Eugene O’Neill: A Documentary Film (available on Amazon). This is a balanced, meticulous portrait of the brilliant yet tortured dramatist who saved the American theatre from melodramatic mush in the early 1920s to create uncompromising plays that rival Oedipus or Lear in their (cosmically) tragic magnitude. It’s somberly narrated by Christopher Plummer (whose performance of a Long Day's Journey into Night scene as James Tyrone Sr. is stunning), and features readings from the likes of Al Pacino, Liam Neeson, and Robert Sean Leonard that are downright mesmerizing. Especially informative are the interviews with Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner and the late director and former dean of the Yale School of Drama, Lloyd Richards. For me, seeing the greatest O’Neill actor who ever lived, Jason Robards, obviously ailing and in one of his last interviews before his death, was very poignant.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

fantastic post carlo, i am now going to make sure i have an o'neill play or two to read while soaking up the sun at the beach this summer.

PeterB@URI said...

Saw it and agree with you, Carlo.

John said...

If anybody has any doubts about watching this docfilm, I'm quite positive this little excerpt of Pacino's cold read will put those worries to rest:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIlooyCcd14

Simply perfect.