A Fuller Life
Time Out says
Writer, director, reporter, soldier, lover, father and lifelong outsider: the title of this warm documentary about the legendary Samuel Fuller pretty much sums it up. Directed by his daughter (Samantha Fuller, naturally), the film intercuts clips from Fuller’s films with recently discovered 16mm footage he shot on the frontline during World War II. Meanwhile, a motley band of friends, fans and former colleagues – ranging in age, status and reading ability from James Franco to Mark Hamill to Wim Wenders – narrate chapters of his autobiography.
The focus is firmly on Fuller’s life and philosophy rather than his movies: clips tend to be brief and context-free, dropped in at random to punctuate the biographical narrative (unsurprisingly, his deeply personal World War II memoir ‘The Big Red One’ crops up most regularly). The wartime footage is stunning, with eerie images of concentration-camp burial sites and the ruins of shattered German cities. But again, it’s used a little too sparingly, keeping Fuller’s words – and the actors and filmmakers reading them – centre stage.
It’s a choice that, at times, pays off: Franco brings Fuller’s tall tales of his time as a newsboy to sparkling life, and filmmaker Monte Hellman’s narration of Fuller’s experience at the Falkenau camp is indelibly haunting. But some of the readings are simply bizarre: actor Bill Duke growls and whispers like a cut-rate Vincent Price, while Hamill seems to struggle with the very concept of reading out loud. A remarkable life, then, but a rather patchy film.