“I’M SORRY, SALINGER!”
If you could see me now, I am literally discarding the review I did last night– after seeing the new film “SALINGER”. I have never dissed a review after I’ve written one. But overnight I must have realized I tried to kill this film and in doing so demeaned Salinger in the process. I am sorry- for disserving him so. It is not his problem that Salerno, the producer and director of this film, tries to capture a man who was not interested in being captured by anybody at all.
“HIS OUTLOOK ON LIFE CHANGED!”
Having been changed immeasurably by the horrors of the Second World War-having seen skeletons at the death camps he with the Allies came into–soon after that war had ended– his own outlook on life altered from what it had been to one where he renounced this world as it was and sought to create one where he simply wrote and worked on his own spiritual growth.
“HOW DO YOU CAPTURE THAT?”
Now how do you capture all of that in a straight film document? Vainly, many people’s voices are sought– recalling their own life experience with Salinger. We see famous people and people not well-known. There’s no doubt this kind of movie documentary will work for many subjects- or shall we say with subjects who have not reached awareness (at least in their own minds) of the total ignominy of war, humanity– as it destroys people– and the useless inner value of celebrity-ship.
How does one capture THAT? You try with folks saying, “Jerry shied away from any self-promotion, any public displays of his talent… ” The irony is this man wrote every day in a little hut near his house and has probably left to posterity a treasure-trove of his great writings. J.D. was fortunate in terms of not needing to go out and earn a living. (He received royalties and inheritance that allowed him to live far from the commerce of writing that most writers must endure.)
“WHAT WE LEARN AND CAN’T LEARN!”
… We learn he was not a great dad– at least to one daughter; and he certainly spoiled relationships in other spheres, We witness a man who was incapable of forging lasting intimate links with others– which is what basically constitutes a vibrant life for most of us. So what this film does is show you the man as seen by others– sort of like someone who knows little about what constitutes great art– trying to judge a daVinci.
“THE GREAT WRITER AIN’T HERE!”
Nevertheless, if you want to learn the down-and-dirty about Salinger: then by all means see this film. But you won’t get much more. You won’t get the sense of a man who courageously lived a somewhat tortured life and in the span of that life may have compiled a truly notable body of literary accomplishments. We simply don’t know yet. Reportedly, some of his writings will be published in 2014. I predict we will witness an awesome testimony to his undying faith in the value of dedicating one’s life to a search for self.
“THE FILM VERSUS THE MAN!”
But you won’t get that from this film. This film treats him as a hunted celebrity-which demeans him as well as us. Like most celebrities, Salinger-being grabbed by the neck-adds very little to our lives. Possibly, reading his works will let us truly see the man he was. But merely scaling the film– apart from the man–yields up only a simple FOUR.