2020欧洲杯体育投注网The documentary “” begins with shots of archives—boxes and boxes of old letters and photos—and a voice-over saying, “This isn’t really a story about a man. It’s about what his life was allowed to mean.” That isn’t aggrandizement; the movie really isn’t about the four-time Oscar-nominated actor Montgomery Clift, at least not in the way you might expect. The voice belongs to his youngest nephew, Robert Clift, who was not yet born when the actor died, in 1966, and who made the film with Hillary Demmon. The popular image of Monty is one of gay tragedy—that he was a self-hating, love-starved closet case who drowned himself in liquor and solitude. (He died of a heart attack, at the age of forty-five, but a colleague called it “the longest suicide in Hollywood history.”) Robert takes a closer look at his uncle’s legacy, finding friends—including Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen on the TV show “Adventures of Superman”—who attest to his joy and humor. He may have been closeted to the public, but he appears to have had fulfilling love affairs with both men and women. Maybe he wasn’t so tortured after all?
2020欧洲杯体育投注网It’s an intriguing idea, but the documentary takes a sharp turn toward a more niche subject: the ethics of biography. In the seventies, two books appeared about Clift—one , by Robert LaGuardia, and the other , by Patricia Bosworth, who had the coöperation of Monty’s brother (and Robert’s father) Brooks Clift. Bosworth became the “de-facto family historian,” Robert says. But, as the filmmakers discover, Brooks ultimately felt betrayed by Bosworth and begged her to make changes in later printings. Her research archives reveal that she may have unfairly suggested that Monty was arrested for picking up a young boy, rather than a grown man—playing into a homophobic trope.
Why get into sentence-by-sentence analysis of a forty-two-year-old biography? Partly because the filmmakers have a trove of material to draw on. Brooks, who died in 1986, compulsively recorded his phone conversations—with Bosworth, with Monty, and even with his wife, the journalist Eleanor Clift, during their divorce. Anyone versed in Janet Malcolm’s trenchant observations2020欧洲杯体育投注网 about journalists and their subjects will recognize the uneasy dynamic between Brooks and Bosworth. Of course, family members can be just as agenda-driven as biographers (often more so), and Robert Clift has his own emotional stake in his uncle’s legacy. But the film asks pointed questions about how even small extrapolations can have distorting effects—was Monty really “more loved than loving,” as Bosworth infers from an anecdote?—and about our reductive understanding of the pre-Stonewall era.
I first saw “Making Montgomery Clift” last summer, at the Provincetown International Film Festival, and was rapt. So I was surprised to see, months later, that it had been quietly released on demand. One wonders whether a more conventional film—one that upheld the image of gay self-loathing—might have had wider distribution. But the documentary is fascinating on its own peculiar terms, especially for anyone who loves or writes Hollywood history. In the end, it’s a good portrait of Montgomery Clift as well. At one point, we hear Monty on a phone call with a journalist, who seems to imply that he leads a “murky life.” “That sounds so fucking dismal, I must say,” Monty replies. “I can’t say I am just melancholy or I am just sad or I am just anything.”
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