One is a bold playwright and actor whose work mined the existential restlessness of the American mind-set; the other is a go-with-the-flow everydude who now works at a Texas grocery store. But regardless of their different paths in life, Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark have remained best buddies since they met in Greenwich Village in the early ’60s, their lives intertwined over the decades through interfamilial marriages and endless reams of eloquent correspondence. Treva Wurmfeld’s tender, extraordinary documentary starts with the duo sifting through boxes of old letters, photos, etc., an excavation that eventually causes friction between the old pals. But the more Shepard & Dark rewinds through their shared history, the more the film blossoms into something far richer than a simple tribute to a long, beautiful friendship—it becomes an ode to a long-lost era of bohemia, an insightful look into male psychology and pathology, a valentine to the art of letter writing and an illustration of how the past is never dead, because it’s not even past.
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