This So-Called Disaster Movie Review
Needless to say, things didn't turn out that way. One very large problem is that Almereyda is new to the documentary biz and doesn't seem to have figured out how things work. Normally a visual innovator in his films like Nadja and the aforementioned Hamlet, Almereyda leaves the camera static, hoping that his subjects will provide all the necessary drama. They don't. Penn looks to be in full Mr. Hollywood mode, reading a newspaper and barely paying attention, while a shaggier-than-usual Nolte is in the throes of some chemically-induced meltdown; Harrelson and Marin just look happy to have been asked along.
The only person Almereyda interviews at any length is Shepard himself, who (as we see in an awkward bit where an AP reporter tries to get anything resembling a complete sentence out of the guy) is not the most verbally effusive of people. A writer of pretty legendary prolificness (during a five-year-stretch in the 1960s he wrote 15 plays), Shepard has shockingly little of interest to say about either his life or art. Watching Shepard direct his actors is like witnessing an exercise in obfuscation: when Harrelson asks a simple question about what they should assume the "fourth wall" facing the audience is (a window, say), he's treated to a pointless soliloquy on the history of modern theater, the breaking of the fourth wall, and Bertolt Brecht.
It doesn't help that what we see of the play itself is less than impressive, looking to be another minor work by Shepard with a pair of battling brothers, an ominous father figure, and plenty of opportunities for overacting. One wonders why Almereyda didn't just film the play instead and call it a day.
Aka This So-Called Disaster: Sam Shepard Directs the Late Henry Moss.
It's a Disaster in the making.