Tag Archives: Documentary

Hadley, at work and play

Yesterday, we were able to make it down to Asbury to see the Eagles play their first home game. Unfortunately, Asbury didn’t get the win, but Hadley played all but a couple of minutes of the game.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and Mom and Dad made it down. It was great sitting out in the sun, watching Hads and her friends play and talking to Mom and Dad and Angell. Here’s some photos from the game:



After the game, we hustled back home because Hadley is working on a film project for her multi-cam class. Hadley directed, and her friends/teammates Jenny and Kat shot, lit and did sound.  The project involved interviewing Angell, her mom and sisters about Angell’s dad (there’s a good/weird story in there for another time).

It was fun to watch Hads and her friends set up their gear and talk and kvetch about school, class and Angell’s family. I’m more than a little proud of this kid, and I can’t wait to see what this documentary short ends up looking like. Here are some pics from the shoot:


Phyllis and Harold (2008)

In our youth-obsessed culture, something awful happens to people of a certain age.  We take away their humanity.  Once white hair and wrinkles achieve a certain critical mass, we tend to think of the individual as a mute, taxidermied version of a once vital family member who gets only minimal attention.  And when a couple makes it to this stage, they’re looked upon as cute and cuddly – we assume happiness and harmony.

Not so with Phyllis and Harold, a captivating documentary by Cindy Kleine.  It’s an unflinching portrait of her parents’ marriage of nearly 60 years that was anything but a storybook romance – and couldn’t be told until after the death of her father.

It opens slyly with a scene of Phyllis and Harold Kleine in the kitchen, going about their day-to-day routine.  They bicker.  They tease.  They’re cute.  And then, there’s a cut to Kleine, who addresses the camera and tells us that for as long as she can remember she’s been trying to figure out who these people are and why they were together.  The answers unfold as a kind of 20th century suburban tragedy.

Harold emerges as a kind of World War II era everyman – a dentist version of the guys on Mad Men – confident and primed for success in the upper end of the post-war middle class, determined to provide his wife and two daughters with all the material comfort he can afford.  He exhaustively documented his family’s life, taking photographs and home movies of daily events and the globetrotting vacations he lavished on his wife.  His version of their life together is a happy one.

Phyllis has a different take altogether.  From her first words, Phyllis paints a picture of regret, of having settled.  It’s a naked confession that blows the movie wide open and turns it into something completely other than what I expected.  The source of regret is an affair with a married man that began before she married Harold, but carried on into their first years as husband and wife.

Kleine interviews her parents separately, and what is striking is how alike they view the facts of their marriage, but how differently the meaning.  Their interviews are intercut to a chilling effect – underscoring how people so close for so long can yet be miles apart.

Phyllis ended the affair after five years, unwilling to walk out and unable to live with the stress of a double-life.  “I didn’t see how you could build a building on such a hurtful relationship – all the hurt we would inflict,” she said.  The man “disappeared to California.  But I never stopped thinking about him.”

Harold, oblivious to the affair, focused on his career and a string of real estate investments, while Phyllis decorated the house and focused on their social life.  Their housekeeper took care of the girls and was a source of comfort in the midst of their parents’ constant battles.  The Kleines come across as a family in a David Sedaris story.  Phyllis systematically turned her daughters against her father through the use of secrets – withholding information from Harold that would anger or hurt him – so that, despite her emotional distance, the three were unified by a common enemy.

I would have liked to have heard more about Harold – gotten his side of the story – but I understand why Kleine gave a pat explanation for him and pushed him to the background.  Secrets.  That, and her mother’s interviews are mesmerizing.  There’s a confessional quality to them that borders on the voyeuristic to watch – her emotions ranging from shame and regret to pure joy as she reflects on her true love.  It’s a rare glimpse into an aspect of marriage that’s almost never explored this honestly.

Harold never learned of his wife’s secret.  He died during the making of the documentary, alleviating his youngest daughter of the burden of what to do with such hurtful material.  And with him out of the way, the daughters help orchestrate a reunion with the man who siphoned off so much of their mother’s attention over the years.  It made me want to know more about Harold – what he did to make it so easy for his daughters to discount the betrayal and facilitate their mother’s wishes.

It’s easy to judge, but I’m betting we all walk around with secrets, shame, and guilt that we never confess.  Cindy Kleine has given us a document of one woman’s unrepentant confession, and though it may be painful to watch, it’s impossible to turn away.

 

Candyman: The David Klein Story (2010)

This weekend, my wife and I wanted to watch something with our daughters, ages 11 and 7.  The image of a Jelly Belly jellybean caught my attention, and I used this delightful movie to introduce the kids to documentaries.  They loved it.

Candyman David KleinEarly in Candyman, the wonderful documentary from Costa Botes, David Klein, the inventor of Jelly Belly gourmet jellybeans makes an admission – “I regret the day I came up with them, I really do.  Why?  Because they ruined my life.”  For the rest of the story, we learn how that could be so – how the invention of a candy that revolutionized the industry – and made millions of dollars – could be seen as a curse to the man who should have become Willy Wonka incarnate.

In the early 70’s, David Klein graduated from the UCLA law school.  He was a brilliant student, but forsook the law for his true passion – candy.  He threw himself into the business, applying the same brilliance that catapulted him to the top of his class to the sale and distribution of candy and nuts.  Before long, he was a fixture in Southern California, an honest, hard-working man, who not only sold candy, but also dreamed up new products.

In 1976, the Jelly Belly was born – and should have died a quick death – but Klein’s chutzpah, mixed with hard work and serendipity, combined to overcome the initial obstacles and become a cultural phenomenon when Ronald Reagan made them a staple of his White House.  In all of this there was Klein, tirelessly (and shamelessly) promoting the product for anyone willing to cover it.

It’s often at the moment of our greatest achievement that the seeds of our destruction are born, and such is the case with Klein.  Around the time of the Reagan endorsement, demand for Jelly Bellies was such that there was a one-year wait-list.  Klein’s manufacturing partner wanted to expand their factory, but without ownership of the Jelly Belly trademark, financing was iffy.  The CEO called a meeting to attempt to buy the company from Klein, and in a decision that, from the comfort of my couch, is insane, Klein sold out for 4.8 million dollars – without a lawyer present to represent him.

At the time, Klein was young and had an elderly partner that was ready to retire.  He figured there would be other genius ideas, but to-date, they haven’t arrived.  Instead, Klein sank into depression, having sold off his baby at a ridiculously under-valued price.  It’s a fascinating piece of storytelling.

Candyman could easily be seen as tragedy, but for the spirit of its subject.  Klein’s son Bert co-produced the movie, which explains the volume of home movies, photographs, and interviews with family and friends that exude a labor-of-love quality.  What emerges is a kind, honest, resilient family man who has spent his career putting others first, even to his own detriment.