A Fuller Life (2013)

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As A Fuller Life is introduced by Samantha Fuller, daughter of Samuel Fuller, and as the conceptual take on his autobiographical writings begin it becomes worrying. Never fear, however, as it all starts to settle into place and the documentary proves to be worthwhile to anyone wanting to know more about the man.

I hope I didn’t scare anyone off with that first sentence. There’s nothing too surreal on display here. A number of people have been chosen to read excerpts from Samuel Fuller’s autobiography, A Third Face, and that’s what they do, with the talking interspersed by movie clips and archival footage never before available (often 16mm footage of Fuller in his army days). Yet the delivery of the words does lend a sense of performance art to the whole thing, which is why I was worried when the first person to appear and read some words aloud was James Franco. Hey, I like the guy, but I know he can test my patience at times. As he took an extra beat here and there I wondered if I’d be able to stand this experience. Thankfully, it was fine. One or two people do act up slightly during certain moments of oration – Franco and Bill Duke being the main offenders – but, overall, things are left with the focus on the words rather than the way they are being spoken.

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As befits the man who learned how to create such powerful imagery, the story is only half told by the words. The real treat here is the archival footage, both from the movies and from the private films made by Fuller throughout his life. Watching those films, and listening to the way the man described his life events (he never lost his way with words, always able to either write a great turn of phrase or pick the most concise way to hit the nail on the head), it soon becomes easier to become more and more impressed by the man I first stumbled across during TV showings of Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss (two films I HIGHLY recommend).

He may have been brought low later in life by the misinterpretation of White Dog, but that doesn’t diminish at all from his body of work. If anything, such treatment should make people more passionate about appreciating the man and checking out his entire filmography. Thankfully, this documentary should lead to the same resolve.

DIRECTOR: SAMANTHA FULLER
WRITER: CONCEPT BY SAMANTHA FULLER, BASED ON THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, A THIRD FACE, BY SAMUEL FULLER
STARS: SAMUEL FULLER, SAMANTHA FULLER, JAMES FRANCO, BILL DUKE, JOE DANTE, MARK HAMILL, WILLIAM FRIEDKIN, CONSTANCE TOWERS
RUNTIME: 80 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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