“Paul Goodman Changed My Life” opens at Film Forum on October 19
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
Posted on October 16, 2011, in Documentary, Film Forum, New and tagged anarchism, Cervantes, Deborah Meier, documentary, Don Quixote, Film Forum, Gestalt Therapy, Grace Paley, Jason Epstein, Jonathan Lee, Judith Malina, Michael Walzer, Ned Rorem, Paul Goodman, Susan Sontag, William F. Buckley. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.