Finding ‘The Right Stuff’ for a documentary

Tom Wolfe

Film still from “Radical Wolfe” courtesy of Kino Lorber

Finding ‘The Right Stuff’ for a documentary

If you’ve ever wondered how retrospective documentaries are made, with their dazzling compilation of still images and rare footage spliced between contemporary interviews, The Moviehouse in Millerton, New York, offered a behind-the-scenes peek into how “the sausage is made” with a screening of director Richard Dewey’s biographical film “Radical Wolfe” on Saturday, March 2.

Coinciding with the late Tom Wolfe’s birthday, “Radical Wolfe,” now available to view on Netflix, is the first feature-length documentary to explore the life and career of the enigmatic Southern satirist, city-dwelling sartorial icon and pioneer of New Journalism — a subjective, lyrical style of long-form nonfiction that made Wolfe a celebrity in the pages of Esquire and vaulted him to the top of the best-seller lists with his drug-culture chronicle “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and his first novel, “The Bonfire of The Vanities.”

The film is rife with local connections, featuring talking-head anecdotes by Wolfe’s former agent and Sharon resident Lynn Nesbit as well as Wolfe contemporary Gay Talese of Roxbury and Christopher Buckley, the son of the late Sharon resident William F. Buckley Jr., who interviewed Wolfe on PBS’ “Firing Line” in 1970.

Present at The Moviehouse was the film editor for “Radical Wolfe,” Brian Gersten, a Millerton resident who recently worked on “Enter The Slipstream,” documenting an American cycling team through the 2020 season of the Tour de France, and the film’s archival producer, Rich Remsberg of North Adams, Massachusetts, a two-time Emmy winner who recently produced “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” for HBO.

Remsberg admitted that in his archival search, there is a competitive sense of “trophy hunting” — the quest for a previously unseen piece of footage that will add an exclusive peek into the past of a film’s subject. “The trophy-hunting aspect of [archival producing] is the rarity of a clip,” he said at The Moviehouse. “I did a piece about George Lucas recently and found an interview with his high school art teacher. It was just mind-blowing. I found four interviews with Lucas before he became famous. But the director only used two minutes. And you can’t get hung up on, ‘But it’s rare!’ You have to consider how useful it is.”

Remsberg added: “One of my favorite sequences in this film is when Wolfe is being introduced onto all these talk shows, and we spliced ‘Ladies and gentlemen... Tom Wolfe, Tom Wolfe, Tom Wolfe, Tom Wolfe…’ And you see the rapid succession of him entering, shaking hands, doing his ‘hair thing’ three or four times, then crossing his legs three or four times. Beautiful rhythm to it, right? It’s really the musicality of filmmaking.”

“I think, as you could tell from how we structured the film, Tom Wolfe’s personal life was private. There wasn’t much there, to be perfectly honest. So the substance was all in the writing,” said Gersten on the documentary editing process. “If you open a book of his, it has so much style, so much is going on, and we did our best to replicate that in the editing style of the film. I think the quick cuts are effective at certain points. At other points, you want to let the story tell itself. When Tom Wolfe describes his interaction with [then-U.S. Sen. John F.] Kennedy, there’s no reason to stylize that. You want to hear Wolfe’s words.”

Latest News

Robert J. Pallone

NORFOLK — Robert J. Pallone, 69, of Perkins Street passed away April 12, 2024, at St. Vincent Medical Center. He was a loving, eccentric CPA. He was kind and compassionate. If you ever needed anything, Bob would be right there. He touched many lives and even saved one.

Bob was born Feb. 5, 1955, in Torrington, the son of the late Joseph and Elizabeth Pallone.

Keep ReadingShow less
The artistic life of Joelle Sander

"Flowers" by the late artist and writer Joelle Sander.

Cornwall Library

The Cornwall Library unveiled its latest art exhibition, “Live It Up!,” showcasing the work of the late West Cornwall resident Joelle Sander on Saturday, April 13. The twenty works on canvas on display were curated in partnership with the library with the help of her son, Jason Sander, from the collection of paintings she left behind to him. Clearly enamored with nature in all its seasons, Sander, who split time between her home in New York City and her country house in Litchfield County, took inspiration from the distinctive white bark trunks of the area’s many birch trees, the swirling snow of Connecticut’s wintery woods, and even the scenic view of the Audubon in Sharon. The sole painting to depict fauna is a melancholy near-abstract outline of a cow, rootless in a miasma haze of plum and Persian blue paint. Her most prominently displayed painting, “Flowers,” effectively builds up layers of paint so that her flurry of petals takes on a three-dimensional texture in their rough application, reminiscent of another Cornwall artist, Don Bracken.

Keep ReadingShow less
A Seder to savor in Sheffield

Rabbi Zach Fredman

Zivar Amrami

On April 23, Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield will host “Feast of Mystics,” a Passover Seder that promises to provide ecstasy for the senses.

“’The Feast of Mystics’ was a title we used for events back when I was running The New Shul,” said Rabbi Zach Fredman of his time at the independent creative community in the West Village in New York City.

Keep ReadingShow less