"A basic retelling of Fuller’s life through rose tinted glasses…"
When a documentary is designed to celebrate someone’s life achievements there is only one way it can go. Invariably we are given all the best bits. However, the most thought provoking and compelling adaptations are always the ones that aren’t afraid to delve into the deepest darkest places of someone who, on the outside, was deemed as near perfect. Unfortunately with A Fuller Life, we are only offered the former; leaving us with a holey soufflé-like storyline of film director, writer Sam Fuller.
A Fuller Life is a basic retelling of Sam’s autobiography, A Third Face first released back in 2002. Such a title evokes thoughts of something more sinister or indeed out of the ordinary when it came to how Fuller’s mind worked as a filmmaker. An inspirational, interesting and thought provoking life is said to be illustrated, albeit such a representation doesn’t fully translate on screen.
Integrated with clips and stills from his most famous work, we are presented with actors and collaborators who guide us through various steps he took towards stardom. The likes of William Freidkin, Wim Wenders, Jennifer Beals, Mark Hamill, Bill Duke, Tim Roth and James Franco all lend their own distinct voices and mannerisms to selected segments of his life. Fuller’s most famous works such as Pick up on South Street, 40 Guns, Shock Corridor and The Big Red One seem to all be based on moments he experienced himself whilst climbing the ladder to his successful career in cinema. In fact, his crazy, hectic life appears to be nothing other than a film script itself.
The rather nifty trick of utilising on-camera narrators helped this rather episodic film along greatly. There is no denying Fuller was a very talented man, with one hell of an interesting story, yet it is very hard to believe that this man didn’t have a dark side. We touch on the hardships that came with the release White Dog (1982), a narrative surrounding a vicious dog raised to kill only black people and it is fleetingly mentioned that he was one of the first people in the industry to employee black people. Albeit a brief, almost passing thought on arguably some of the most intriguing aspects resulting in the overall project material are somewhat unbalanced.
From the get go we know this is going to be the man’s life through rose tinted glasses, via daughter Samantha’s eyes. Presented as a worthy pioneer, especially for wartime cinema, what we are really getting is a little girl showing the world her Daddy’s films. The entire project seemed a family Fuller affair, including a Fuller tending to delightful swing and jazz we hear throughout. Fans are sure to relish in watching snippets of the man’s work fly across the screen and for those who haven’t read his autobiography this is engaging enough. In the end, all we are presented with is a sugarcoated, heartfelt tribute to from a daughter to her father.