Thursday, August 17, 2017

A look at a Hollywood life

Michael Almereyda, who directed Ethan Hawke in a version of Hamlet set in Manhattan, brings his skills to a documentary about Hampton Fancher. If you just said, "Hampton who?," you're not alone. Fancher isn't exactly a household name, although he's credited as one of the writers of 1982's Blade Runner. Fancher also gets a writing credit for the screenplay for the much anticipated Blade Runner 2049, due this fall. Once an actor, Fancher appeared in a variety of shows during the 1960s: Bonanza, Perry Mason and Gunsmoke among them. Not afraid of the talking-head approach, particularly in his film's latter going, Almereyda concocts a fascinating look at a California life that led Fancher to the movies. Fancher fled home at the age of 16 and traveled to Barcelona to study flamenco. He's been married and unmarried and involved with a variety of women, including actress Barbara Hershey. Fancher is an interesting talker and storyteller, the kind of guy who always sounds like an "insider" no matter how obscure the story he's telling. Sci-fi fans will most appreciate the movie for Fancher's explanation of how he became involved with author Philip K. Dick and later with Blade Runner, which was based on a Dick novella. Almereyda allows Fancher to tell his own story, but often shows us photos from Fancher's past or from TV shows and movies in which the actor appeared. I enjoyed spending time with Fancher in Almereyda's documentary about a man whose life seems possible only in a place where everyone aspires to make movies.

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