Tribeca Film Festival (2013): “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia”

Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal

Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” is a wild ride through the life of the eponymous, critic, author, play-write, raconteur, screenwriter, essayist, novelist and probably a few other things that I am leaving out.  Director Nicholas Wrathall managed to capture Vidal on camera during his final years, during which Vidal had lost none of his very acerbic bite. 

In addition to interviews with the man himself (starting with Vidal at his intended burial plot, his name and birth year already engraved) the documentary is filled with generous amounts of interviews, TV appearances (including one particularly scabrous debate in which William F. Buckley calls Vidal a “queer”), newsreel footage and numerous quotes: “Never have children.  Have grandchildren.”  “You don’t decide to be a writer.  You either are or are not.”  “Art is not a democracy.  Art is the enemy of democracy.”

The documentary lays out Vidal’s life efficiently and in great detail.  We learn that his interest in politics came about as a result of accompanying his blind grandfather, Senator Thomas Prior Gore, a Democrat, to the Senate in order to read for him.  Vidal claims that his grandfather was an honest senator and, as proof, points to the fact that his grandfather died poor, refusing to take any graft.  Vidal explains that, “Our form of democracy is bribery on a huge scale.”  Vidal’s father, Eugene Luther idal, considered to be the Henry Ford of aviation, had an affair with Amelia Earhart, while his mother (with whom Vidal had a bad relationship) reportedly had affairs with Clark Gable.

The film is a veritable cornucopia of landmark events from Vidal’s life: Vidal being the ostracized over the publication of his frank book on homosexuality, “The City and the Pillar,” to his famous encounter with a drunken Norman Mailer on “The Dick Cavett Show,” among many other incidents.  Contemporary interviewees include Gore’s nephew, Burr Steers, and the late Christopher Hitchens.

“Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” is nothing if not educational, while simultaneously being an outrageous and irreverent look at a one of a kind personality.

For information on the Tribeca Film Festival visit


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 April 23, 2013, in Documentary, New and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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