Paul Goodman Changed My Life
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Posted: Tue Oct 18 2011
Peacenik and anarchist, novelist and poet, married father of two and defiant homosexual: Paul Goodman, staple of the 1960s New Left, oscillated between so many identities that it's easy to sympathize with the puzzled glances William F. Buckley Jr. throws at the subject in the opening archival scene of Jonathan Lee's adoring documentary. The conservative talk-show host doesn't have a clue what to do with this subversive gay radical aping the pose of a pipe-smoking intellectual---and chances are you won't either unless you're already a Goodman acolyte.
Most famous for his influential this-is-our-youth tome Growing Up Absurd, Goodman pushed the boundaries of knowledge (helping to launch the Gestalt school of therapy) and good behavior (he frequently had affairs with his students, which he shrugged off). He warranted a mention in Annie Hall, but he's a mostly forgotten figure now, something the doc clearly aims to remedy. Figures like Living Theatre cofounder Judith Malina testify to the writer's greatness, and there are a few vivid recitations from the subject's oeuvre: Garrison Keillor fares best with the evocative poem "I Planned to Have a Border of Lavender." Mostly though, it feels like we're watching a superficial gloss on Goodman's CV rather than a probing interrogation of his legacy. For the choir only.
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Author: Keith Uhlich