01 December 2014

Review: Regarding Susan Sontag (Documentary)

Regarding Susan Sontag directed by Nancy KatesTen years ago Susan Sontag, one the world's most well-known social commentators, lost her third battle with cancer at the age of seventy-one. Although it seemed as if she never backed down from controversy or from uncovering the truth when it came to public issues, she struggled with finding self-acceptance in her private life.

Soon after Sontag's death, award-winning filmmaker Nancy Kates became interested not only in exploring some of the many dichotomies in Sontag's life but also in keeping her voice alive. For those of us, like Kates, who are long-time admirers of Sontag's work, the film Regarding Susan Sontag provides a new context in which to understand her as a person and author. For younger viewers, the documentary offers an introduction to one of the most outspoken cultural critics of the last century.

At the heart of Regarding Susan Sontag (HBO on Monday, December 8, 9:00pm EST) is Sontag's own words--from her published works and private journals as well as from her talks and interviews. Combining period imagery, family photographs, and original footage with a strong narrative (read by Patricia Clarkson), Kates's documentary is visually stunning, paying homage to Sontag's ideas about the power of photography.

Sontag was a self-proclaimed seeker of the truth, yet she tried desperately to keep the truth of her sexuality away from her family and out of the public eye. She was keen observer of the world around her, yet she sometimes missed the evident truths about her own behavior. The interviews with her sister and son, lovers and friends included in Regarding Susan Sontag paint a portrait of a conflicted, driven woman who was endlessly fascinated with life, images, and words.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of sexual identity, feminism, and politics, you should know about Susan Sontag. You may not always agree with her or even understand her, but you cannot deny that she tried always to find the unvarnished truth. Nancy Kates's Regarding Susan Sontag respectfully and beautifully shows all the sides of Sontag, a lifelong thinker and lover of books.

I love this documentary so much, I've already seen it twice. Don't miss this one. For more information about Nancy Kates, see her website. The film's website includes a helpful viewing/screening guide.

Mark your calendar for December 8, and don't forget to come back next week, when--in celebration of the HBO debut--I'll post my interview with director Nancy Kates.


rhapsodyinbooks 12/1/14, 10:10 AM  

I have a couple of books of her essays, and they are excellent!

Beth Hoffman 12/1/14, 10:44 AM  

I know so little about Sontag and you've really nudged me to do some exploring. I'll be watching for your interview with Nancy Kates!

bermudaonion 12/1/14, 1:13 PM  

Like Beth, I know little about her but it certainly sounds like she had a fascinating life.

Daryl 12/1/14, 1:27 PM  

looking forward to this .. thanks

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 12/2/14, 6:58 AM  

Looking forward to next week and your interview. Thank you.

Alex 12/2/14, 8:41 AM  

Susan Sontag has been one of my heroes ever since I read her in college. Thanks for reminding me about this HBO special. I know I will be watching.

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