Coming to NYC’s Stranger Than Fiction next Tuesday, October 5: AMERICAN SPLENDOR
STF pays tribute to underground comic book artist Harvey Pekar, who died this summer, with a special screening of this narrative/documentary hybrid by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, an adaptation of his long-running comic series. Premiering at Sundance in 2003, the film claimed the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and went on to screen at scores of additional festivals, winning prizes at Cannes, and numerous guild and critics’ nods after its theatrical release.
Drama/doc hybrids are often awkward creatures – neither fish nor fowl, they at times miss the mark when considered as examples of either form, or emerge as interesting experiments but ultimately unsatisfying. Luckily, however, AMERICAN SPLENDOR just works. It might be because of the nature of the already explicitly autobiographical source material – it’s not a far stretch to accept the real-life Pekar breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the audience as a narrator or Greek chorus commenting on the sequences enacted by Paul Giamatti. I wouldn’t want to see a lot of imitators attempting to copy this formula though – it does seem very specific to this project, and it does frankly lean more towards narrative than documentary in the end. Still, despite being an unusual choice for STF, it’s definitely an appropriate one, and I’ll be curious to hear how a documentary-specific audience responds to the film in this context.