CELEBRITY : DOMINICK DUNNE
The rise and fall and rise of Dominick Dunne - his transition from unlikely war-hero, stage manager in early TV, Hollywood producer (who shot himself in the foot), friend of the stars of old and new Hollywood, to correspondent and defining 'voice' of Vanity Fair, covering the murder trials of O.J. Simpson and Phil Spector, plus the Princess Diana inquest among others..
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This is a knockout story - superbly told. An outsider even to his family, especially his abusive heart surgeon father, Nick as many call Dominick Dunne, is what journalists call a great human interest story - fittingly for a man whose later career has been built on human interest stories about celebrities. Often celebrities who got away with murder. Literally. But as he now says, the reason he can "write arsehole so well is because I was myself once an arsehole". His marriage broke up when his wife Lenny couldn't put up with the excessive social climbing lifestyle any more.
His life was also marred by tragedy - two of his five children died as babies, one of his brothers committed suicide, his daughter was strangled - and encrusted by celebrity. Entwined around the lives of America's greatest stars in both personal and professional areas, Dunne himself is colourful, opinionated, funny, controversial and eloquent. And not everyone loves him. What more could a filmmaker want.
But it's not easy to capture the sheer richness of Dunne's life (80 as he talks about it) even with the level of intimacy, honesty and generosity Dunne shows. Filmed over many sessions, the work owes its appeal and its power to Suresh Ayyar's exceptional editing that brings it all dramatically, movingly and coherently into focus. Lovely music from Antony Partos, too.
Review by Louise Keller:
I couldn't stop watching this riveting documentary about a man so obsessed by celebrity that he became one. But the story doesn't end there. Wealth, fame, power and love nose-dive on life's slippery dip and Dominick Dunne reaches the depths of despair before finding his true vocation as a crusader of justice after his daughter's murder. An insight into the workings of Hollywood and high profile stars like Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart and Truman Capote, this is a fascinating story, told with total honesty, humour and self-deprecation. The facts are mind-boggling but the humanity is profoundly moving.
Triggered by his 22 year old actress daughter Dominique's murder, Dominick Dunne's career as controversial commentator for Vanity Fair began as he championed the rights of high profile murder victims. But the film doesn't begin there. It starts with an irresistible anecdote that Dunne tells about Frank Sinatra. And first time directors Kirsty de Garis and Timothy Jolley make us eager to leap into this extraordinary world about a self-confessed 'outsider' who rises above the low-esteem inflicted on him by his abusive father to join the ranks of the rich and famous. Dunne made influential friends as stage manager in the early days of television. It all started when Bogie invited him to dinner.
'She was the real thing; I was the fake,' he says of his love for his beautiful heiress wife Lenny. But he admits he was not good at love. Or family life ('Even we were art directed,' says his son Griffin). Dunne is not shy to speak his mind or tell stories out of school and readily admits to being 'the architect of his own failure'. Production values are tops - Suresh Ayyar's excellent editing and Antony Partos' sensitive score. Utterly compelling, it's the story of a uniquely ambitious and talented man who lost everything but got what he wanted. As former head of Paramount Robert Evans says: 'it's stranger than fiction.'
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CELEBRITY : DOMINICK DUNNE (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring Dominick Dunne, Robert Evans, Graydon Carter, Tina Brown, Joan Didion, Ben Pesta, Griffin Dunne, Mart Crowley, Liz Smith, Anne Fulenwider
PRODUCER: Kirsty de Garis, Timothy Jolley, Sue Maslin, Daryl Dellora
DIRECTOR: Kirsty de Garis, Timothy Jolley
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alexandria Hammond, Andrew Commis
EDITOR: Suresh Ayyar
MUSIC: Antony Partos
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Film Art media
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 23, 2008 [Schonell Theatre, University of Queensland, Brisbane, from November 1]