A FULLER LIFE 80mins (IFI)
Directed by Samantha Fuller. Starring Samuel Fuller, Jennifer Beals, Robert Carradine, Joe Dante, Bill Duke, Clarke Duke, James Franco, William Friedkin, Mark Hamill.
THE PLOT: Based on the full-on filmmaker’s posthumous 2002 autobiography A Third Race, this documentary by Sam Fuller’s daughter Samantha charts his life more than his work. Chapter after chapter of Fuller’s book is read aloud by various associates and admirers of the man who brought us such American New Wave hits as The Naked Kiss (1964) and Shock Corridor (1963) and later favourites, such as 1980’s The Big Red One. His daughter is more interested in the life than the work though – and so, we hear of Fuller’s days as a WWII infantryman, his days as a newsboy, and a scriptwriter, before Hollywood finally succumbed…
THE VERDICT: Perhaps because the Fuller family don’t actually own Samuel Fuller’s films, this loving portrait of the filmmaker as a man rather than an artist will ultimately only be of real interest to real fans. And even then, there will be nothing new to savour here, other than the mild thrill of having mildly famous people read out pages from a 13-year-old autobiography.
Still, as family affairs go in the Hollywood game, this is an undeniably affectionate and sometimes affecting love letter from a daughter to a legendary father. Which is mildly ironic, given that A FULLER LIFE is about as far removed from its subject’s notorious “bold style” of filmmaking.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

A Fuller Life
Review by Paul Byrne
3.0Affectionate and affecting
  • filmbuff2011

    Like Robert Altman (the subject of another recent documentary), Samuel Fuller was a maverick American director who made films the way he wanted to, rather than the way Hollywood wanted him to. A Fuller Life is an affectionate tribute to the man himself, as directed by his daughter Samantha. But rather than having talking heads talk about how great he was, Samantha Fuller has gone down the more personal route of allowing the late Fuller to tell his own story. Divided into 12 chapters, various actors, directors and admirers read from Fuller’s autobiography, A Third Face: My Tale Of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking. The list of readers is impressive: James Franco, Mark Hamill, Tim Roth, Bill Duke, Wim Wenders, Joe Dante and William Friedkin are among those recounting Fuller’s colourful career. That’s from his early days as a newspaper copyboy to journalist, then WWII hero to filmmaker. Fuller was the only film-maker to shoot a film about the D-Day landings, while having actually served in the army at the time. His films always had a strong sense of reality to them, as he drew from personal experiences – one of his most personal being the acclaimed war film The Big Red One. He was also a progressive director, particularly in having African American characters in his stories, like in his cult classic Shock Corridor. His never-before-seen footage of WWII is shot with a cameraman’s eye for detail and realism. Samantha Fuller’s film is a fitting tribute to her father’s legacy. However, it feels a little disjointed, perhaps given the constantly changing narrators. Poor Tim Roth comes and goes far too quickly. Settling on a handful of narrators would have been more effective – Duke and Friedkin being the most effective. Their readings are done with a playful sense of humour, nodding warmly to their subject. Anyone who has seen and admired a Samuel Fuller film like this reviewer will no doubt want to catch this. It’s nothing remarkable, but it does feel like a cosy fireside chat with a bunch of film-loving friends. ***