“George Plimpton was one of the twentieth century’s most interesting characters…” reads the Ashland Independent Film Festival guide book entry for Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself and throughout the film, nothing is more apparent.
The documentary, directed by Tom Bean and Luke Poling, looks at the life of writer, editor, journalist and professional amateur George Plimpton.
The film starts looking at his early life and how that contributed to his essential founding of participatory journalism. During his career, Plimpton experienced firsthand that which most people can only watch, earning him professional amateur status.
As we hear talking head interviews from those who were closest to him both personally and professionally, we see the scenes from Plimpton’s life, and what a life it was.
George Plimpton wrote about what he knew, and if he didn’t know, he learned the best way he could, by doing. In his life, he was a major league pitcher, an NFL quarterback and an NHL goalie. He flew through the air at the circus, photographed African safari, shared the screen with John Wayne and played percussion under the direction of Leonard Bernstein.
What makes the film truly wonderful is Plimpton’s posthumous narration throughout. He died in 2003, but interviews from throughout his past tell the story of his life in his own words, which carries far more weight than hearing someone else telling the story.
Close work by the film makers with “The Paris Review” and Plimpton’s family members has provided a great deal of previously unseen material from his life, which, according to the film’s website, “will surprise even the most die-hard Plimpton fans”.
The final act plays like one of the most heartfelt eulogies that I’ve seen in film, punctuated by an emotional reading of one of Plimpton’s essays by his son, Taylor.
Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself premiered at AFI’s SilverDocs festival in June 2012 and has won Best Feature Documentary awards at both the Woods Hole Film Festival and Napa Valley Film Festival in August and November of 2012, respectively.
The film will run for two more showings at the film festival; Sunday, Apr. 7 at 10:10 a.m. and Monday, Apr. 8 at 3:40 p.m. and is in competition during the festival.