Who Is Henry Jaglom?

1995, Movie, NR, 52 mins

Review

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Fimmakers H. Alex Rubin and Jeremy Workman don't entirely answer the question they pose in the title of this short documentary, made in 1995 and released to home video in 1998. While they interview the director and many of his friends and associates, they don't arrive at much that isn't obvious from watching Jaglom's films.

But that may be the point. As many of the interview subjects note, Jaglom's films are his way of viewing the world; anything he can't capture on film is less valid to him. He regularly records and films the people he knows, not always with their permission. (Orson Welles, for whom Jaglom tried for years to raise financing to make another film, was reportedly highly upset to learn a few days before his death that Jaglom had regularly tape-recorded their conversations.)

Jaglom is seen openly welcoming the makers of this documentary, which he hopes will be like his own work--an avenue to explore feelings and emotional truths. Clips are included from Jaglom's dozen films made since 1970, most of them semi-improvisational works in which he encourages the actors to react to given situations, saying, "I'll fit the script later into what they give me." Although he distinguishes between himself and the character he plays in many of his films, he says, "If there's one thing I'm trying to prove, it's that there's no such thing as too personal." One of his best films, ALWAYS (1985), is essentially a reenactment of the breakup of his marriage, starring himself, his ex-wife, and members of their families.

Jaglom is particularly interested in women's issues, and refers to himself as a "male lesbian." While neither homosexual nor effeminate, he and his films value the open emotionality associated with the feminine nature. His relentless probing for openness and honesty, at all times and with all people, strikes some as liberating and others as an inappropriate form of aggression. Speaking in favor of his methods, Candice Bergen comments that "If I'd had Henry as a father or a husband, I could probably have taken Poland."

While WHO IS HENRY JAGLOM? merely confirms what any viewer of Jaglom's oeuvre will have surmised, its brevity makes it a good primer for those who haven't been introduced to the work of this truly independent filmmaker, which can be equally fascinating and maddening. Oddly, it fails to address the financial side of Jaglom's independence--his films are entirely self-financed and distributed, an increasingly difficult feat in an era when major chains dominate theatrical exhibition. (Adult situations, profanity.) leave a comment

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