Now Streaming: Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Actor Harry Dean Stanton is exactly what you’d expect him to be: damn interesting.

Stanton is one of my favorite actors. If you don’t recognize his name, I guarantee that you will recognize his face. The man has been in over 200 films over the past 50 years.

Directed by Sophie Huber, this intimate film doesn’t follow the typical documentary path. Stanton, its subject, seems oddly reluctant to reveal his secrets, despite agreeing to make a movie about his life. But as the film continues, he gradually opens up, revealing the tormented yet resolute soul of one of our finest living character actors.

The early film drags a bit. Harry actively tries to avoid revealing too much of his past to Huber. But as time wears on, his defenses are worn down. Many members of his diverse circle of friends show up to celebrate Stanton, including David Lynch, Debbie Harry and Kris Kristofferson. Harry gradually becomes more open to the idea of talking about his past. He’s an introspective and isolated man, but it is clear that he’s touched the lives of many people.

If you aren’t already a die-hard fan of Harry Dean Stanton, this might not be the documentary for you. It’s chock full of film clips and celebrity interviews. It assumes your knowledge.  I cannot imagine a casual viewer getting much out of Partly Fiction. This movie is definitely preaching to the converted.

Of course, if you are the right type of viewer, Partly Fiction is a sublime viewing experience. Each section of the movie is punctuated by Stanton singing mournful, heavy songs. These songs perfectly illustrate the life of a man who tries to pretend he’s fallen completely ass-backward into success, but has secretly worked tirelessly to get there.

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction is streaming now on Netflix.

If you want to go even deeper with Harry Dean, here is a nice in-depth interview with Stanton and Sophie Huber about the film, via Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.