Free Frameline Encore: Regarding Susan Sontag at Roxie
Nancy Kates’s new documentary on America’s most glamorous public intellectual takes us on a whirlwind tour through Sontag’s life, using a treasure trove of archival material, contextualized by revealing commentary from a cast of Sontag scholars, friends, relatives, and lovers.
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An iconic writer, filmmaker, professor, and political activist, Sontag accomplished more in one lifetime than most of us might in three. “I was in a hurry to grow up,” she tells an interviewer, explaining why she entered college at sixteen and had married, given birth, and divorced by the age of 25. She doesn’t mention how busy she really was; she combined classes at Berkeley with a thorough exploration of San Francisco’s gay scene under the guidance of her first lover, Harriet Sohmers Zwerling.
Even as they toured North Beach bars, Sontag copied gay slang into her notebook. This was a woman whose mind never stopped working, who was never satisfied with what she’d accomplished. Kates (Brother Outsider) fills the screen with images of Sontag and her who’s-who coterie of artists and intellectuals, as she engaged the camera in photos, interviews, and even in a French film. As this film vividly documents, despite her metamorphoses from novelist to essayist to filmmaker, from faculty wife to lesbian pinup, Sontag remained, inimitably, Susan Sontag.
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