Judge Brett Cullum has seen his fair share of after-parties.
"It's stranger than fiction."—Robert Evans, commenting on the life of Dominick Dunne
Dominick Dunne quite simply is a man so obsessed with celebrity that he had to find a way to become one himself. This documentary is an intimate discussion with a guy now in his eighties who lived many lives. He grew up a verbally abused son of a heart surgeon, became an unlikely war hero, was a stage manager in the formative days of television, gave famous star-studded parties in Hollywood, produced movies, lost a daughter to a murderer, became a broke alcoholic, and then reinvented himself as a writer of novels as well as a celebrated crime columnist for Vanity Fair. He's covered the trials of OJ Simpson, the Menendez brothers, and Phil Spector. It comes as no surprise that Dominick would be the subject of a documentary called Dominick Dunne: After the Party in America and Celebrity: Dominick Dunne elsewhere.
The film was made by a team from Australia (where it uses the "Celebrity" title), and it's a great piece of work that is edited brilliantly. The key to any good project is a story, and they've got a doozy of one here. Dunne is a lively interview subject as are most of his friends and his son Griffin. Wisely the directors decide to use the Phil Spector trial as a framing device for Dunne to discuss his life. We see him following the legal proceedings, and get to witness his behind the scenes work as a man crying out for justice. They allow Dominick Dunne to tell his side of his entire life without many dissenting opinions. We get a sense from short interviews with son Griffin Dunne and clips of people involved with trials that there are plenty of people who would accuse Dunne of being insincere at times.
The DVD is straightforward: the feature is presented with few bells and whistles. The sole extra is a handful of press interviews with directors Kristy de Garis and Timothy Jolley. They discuss how they wanted to approach their subject, and reveal the genesis of the project. The interviews are quite insightful, and well worth watching after the feature. The transfer is what you would expect with digital cameras trained on talking heads. It's fine, looks clear, but doesn't feel very cinematic. Thankfully the old archive clips and the stirring score make the film feel much larger than life. Certainly the subject of the film helps in that regard as well.
Dunne is a complex man, but you sense his outrage immediately for the victim. The tragic loss of his daughter meant he was destined to become an advocate for those struck down by criminals. He's Batman trapped in the body of Alfred, and instead of dazzling toys he uses a column in a major magazine to fight crime. Dominick Dunne: After the Party is a well-crafted documentary from "Down Under" which reveals his charms and career nicely.
Guilty of being a fascinating look at a man who is a celebrity trial junkie,
this film is free to go. Problem is Dunne will never leave the courtroom until
he keels over.
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