Harry Dean Stanton has been in over 250 films. Think about that, just for a minute. He’s 88 years old. His first listed appearance on film in the IMDb is in 1954. Sixty years on film, that’s an average of at least 4 films/shows a year. That’s pretty mind-boggling. Most of us, I suspect, think of Alien or Escape From New York as Stanton’s earliest roles. Certainly is for me. Then Repo Man stands out, too. Ever since then, I feel like he’s been in everything. Paris, Texas, Red Dawn (the original), Pretty in Pink, Last Temptation Of Christ, Wild At Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Straight Story, The Green Mile, – we haven’t gotten to the year 2000 yet, though he slows down a bit after. He was even in The Avengers. This is all no small legacy, people. Even if you think you don’t know who Harry Dean Stanton is, I can assure you, you do.
But of all the things he’s done, many of us don’t know that he has been a musician and singer all his life, and in fact, has expressed that he would like to have been known as such. He ultimately chose acting because he figured that sometimes that would give him the opportunity to sing and play in certain films. And here, in a personal and mesmerizing documentary, Partly Fiction, we get to see that musical side of Harry Dean Stanton, among other things.
This is full of intimate moments that are at once funny as well as a bit melancholy. This man has lived. But he’s been mostly a loner, too. He explains that he has, over the years, proposed to a lady or two, but he got turned down. Eventually, he stopped trying. He figured he was meant to be alone.
There is a lot of stillness in this film, and not a lot of dialogue. We get to watch Harry play a little guitar, and sing some great Americana, folk, and country songs, sitting right on his sofa. He’s really quite good, and you can get the soundtrack to this film on iTunes and whatnot. There’s a heart-breaking style to his singing. The songs are really beautiful and intimate.
In between songs, director Sophie Huber cuts in clips from Harry’s vast oeuvre of film appearances, as well as great interviews with people who have worked with him over the years, such as David Lynch, Kris Kristoferson, Sam Shepard, Wim Wenders, and Debroah Harry. All of this creates an illuminating study of an iconic actor.
One of my favorite parts is the camera quietly following Harry and his heels click on the sidewalk walking into Dan Tana’s on Santa Monica Blvd., as he has a drink at the bar. The bartender has known him since he first started working there in 1964.
I absolutely recommend this film. Partly Fiction is a wonderful opportunity to get to know an actor who’s been around the block a few dozen times – and isn’t done yet. But hey, he’s 88, better get to know him while you can, even though if anyone was going to live forever via celluloid, Harry Dean Stanton surely will. This is an easy four kittenhands.
I’d tell you about the amazing live performance I witnessed of Harry Dean Stanton, Don Was, and Jamie James at the Grammy Museum, but I don’t want you all to get too jealous.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, totally want you to get jealous over me seeing Harry Dean Stanton play live, from about 15 feet away. Yep.