American Splendor

Caught the first 10 minutes of this film the other day, and it was so strange that I was compelled to record it, to watch later. I knew nothing of Harvey Pekar or his cult comic American Splendor (which told the story of his life, as he lived it), but by the end of this movie I felt I knew him. Onscreen, Harvey was brilliantly played by Paul Giamatti, although the real Harvey narrated the story, and appeared often throughout the movie as himself, at one point referring to Giamatti as “this guy who’s playing me”. Similarly several other characters were both played by actors during dramatic scenes while appearing as themselves in explaining how they felt at various points.

In addition, at several points the drama cut between acted scenes with Paul Giamatti, and archive footage of the real Harvey on the Letterman show. This sounds like it would be a mess, but it wasn’t – it was extremely well edited, and not confusing at all. What I particularly liked was the attention to detail – when Paul Giamatti is led onstage to be interviewed, he is wearing exactly the same clothes as we then see worn by the real Harvey Pikar when we cut to archive footage on the Green Room TV monitor. Simple, but very effective.

After seeing the film, I was sad to read that Harvey Pekar died earlier this month. He seemed be be a very strange man, but the world could do with a few more strange people, I think.

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