“Paul Goodman Changed My Life” opens at Film Forum on October 19

Paul Goodman

As William F. Buckley observes in a clip form “Paul Goodman Changed My Life,” Jonathan Lee’s new documentary about Paul Goodman, “Mr. Goodman is everything, except, as far as I know, a basketball player.  Everything else he excels in.”  Goodman was a 1960’s philosopher, therapist, teacher, intellectual, poet, provocateur and bi-sexual advocate.  The documentary is a lively mix of archival footage and present day interviews.   It opens for a two week run at Film Forum on October 19.

Using Cervantes “Don Quixote” as an example, Goodman was of the opinion that society was crazy and the people were sane.  He was an advocate for not sending children to school, claiming they would learn to read and write by just picking it up, without formal training, as they did  with language.  In fact, Goodman questioned if literacy was even necessary.  He wanted to abolish New York City public schools and felt that people learned by reaching out to what is interesting to them.

Goodman proposed that cars not be allowed in Manhattan.  He claimed that not only would this result in a reduction in pollution, but that 35% of the land could be taken back and used to create low cost housing.  Goodman wrote the book “Growing Up Absurd,” a favorite among college students. The book dealt with spiritual emptiness and was a cornerstone of countercultural thinking during the sixties.  While a prodigious writer, playwright and poet Goodman claimed, “Nobody offered me to the muses.  I imposed on them.” Goodman also co-founded the Gestalt Therapy movement.

In short Goodman was a man who said what he felt, and then some.  While he tried to change society to where he could be more comfortable in it, the reality was that Goodman probably never would have been comfortable no matter what.  He was awash in contradictions: a self-proclaimed bi-sexual who maintained a marriage and was a devoted family man, a rebel who published frequently while also being an anarchist who wanted recognition from the literary establishment. Goodman claimed, “Anarchism is not a set of principles.  It’s an attitude.”  He was also a sophisticate who managed to both attract and antagonize peers.

The film’s interviewees include Judith Malina, Grace Paley, Ned Rorem, Deborah Meier, Buckley, Susan Sontag, Jason Epstein and Michael Walzer.  They offer arguments both for and against Goodman’s ideas.  Often the pros and cons exist within the same person.  The latter, it seems, is a perfectly appropriate reaction when discussing such a complex, interesting individual, way ahead of his time, like Goodman.

Film Forum is located at 209 West Houston Street.

Paul Goodman Changed My Life, Director Jonathan Lee, 2011,

Zeitgeist Films, 89 minutes


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on October 16, 2011, in Documentary, Film Forum, New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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