Monday, 25 May 2015

Regarding Susan Sontag

Just watched the 2014 HBO documentary Regarding Susan Sontag, a fine introduction to the life and work of the great American writer, thinker, essayist, philosopher and occasional film maker. With contributions from family, friends, former lovers and contemporary writers, as well as a fine selection of archive interviews of Sontag in conversation (or posing for Andy Warhol), what emerges from the film is a woman of immense complexity and contradiction, a cultural commentator with a laser-guided intellect who wrote in grandiose stokes about B-movies and the aesthetics of camp; a determined non-conformist who was guarded about her homosexuality, a romantic who left behind a string of intense but messy love affairs. Sontag's appetite for life was voracious, the documentary explores her time in Paris, hanging out with ex-pat Beat writers and cameoing in an early French new wave film. She had a huge ego could be fearless - once challenging Norman Mailer at a roundtable discussion on Women’s Liberation in 1971 (immortalized in DA Pennebaker's film Town Bloody Hall), she staged a production of Waiting For Godot in Sarajevo as bullets and bombs rained down on the beleaguered city and successfully faced down cancer on two occasions, never once considering she might die. My own experience of Susan Sontag up to now rests solely on her 1977 book On Photography but thanks to this excellent documentary, I now have much more to explore...

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