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Joe Gould's Secret (Widescreen)

Ian Holm , Stanley Tucci , Stanley Tucci    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Joe Mitchell (Tucci) is a top writer at The New Yorker specializing in profiles of urban eccentrics. But he s never met anyone as fascinating as Joe Gould a cantankerous unkempt yet possibly brilliant street philosopher. Mitchell decides to profile Gould. But is Gould a fraud or a genius? And why is he so reluctant to show anyone the manuscript he s labored over for years? Mitchell is determined to find out. But the closer he gets to learning the truth about Gould the more the writer discovers about himself. A fiery and unforgettable portrait of two astonishing men and the vibrant city that inspired them. Actors: Hope Davis - Ian Holm - Stanley Tucci. Director: Stanley Tucci. Format: DVD. Format Size: Widescreen. Runtime: 110 mins. Language: English. Region code: Region 1 (United States Canada Bermuda U.S. territories). Discs: 1. Rating: R. Genre: Comedy. Release Year: 2000.

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4.0 out of 5 stars
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By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
I watched "Joe Gould's Secret" without knowing that it was based on a true story, but was not surprised when that turned out to be the case because this 2000 film from actor/director Stanley Tucci rings true. Tucci plays Joe Mitchell, a columnist for "The New Yorker" magazine in the early 1940s who had a chance encounter with a Greenwich Village bohemian eccentric named Joe Gould (Ian Holm). His reporter's curiosity piqued, Mitchell asks around a bit and finds that Gould claims to be writing an epic Oral History of New York, an almost daily record of the conversations he has each day with the forgotten ordinary folks of the great metropolis (the Oral History has to be capitalized; that is clear from the way Gould and his friends talk about it). The notebooks containing this million-word history are secreted around the city with the various artist friends who provide Gould patronage by listening to him and making monetary contributions to the Joe Gould Fund. The rationale for their indulgence is articulated by the painter Alice Neel (Susan Sarandon) who tells Mitchell, "I have always felt that the city's s unconscious is trying to speak to you through Joe Gould."

Mitchell discovers that Gould is a walking contradiction, capable of both quick bursts of anger and madness as well as perceptive insights into the human condition. He proves his credentials at being a superb listener by doing a Henry Higgins and telling Mitchell he was born in North Carolina based on a single sentence. Mitchell writes two articles about Gould for "The New Yorker." The first, "Professor Sea Gull," makes Gould even more of a cult figure about the New York intelligentsia, and a publisher (Steve Martin) is interested in at least reading the Oral History.
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4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating true life story June 10 2001
What is history? Is it nothing more than the accounts we read in books of the exploits of various kings, queens, generals, armies, nations etc. as they wage war or deliberate peace throughout the endless millennia? Or is it - as Tolstoy implied - the sum total of the day-to-day actions of ordinary human beings eking out an existence on this unique little planet we call Earth?
These are the questions posed by Stanley Tucci's "Joe Gould's Secret," an intriguing little film based on the true story of a well-known eccentric who lived amongst and associated with the New York literati of the 1940's. This tale is really about two "Joes" - Joe Mitchell, a highly successful writer at "The New Yorker," and Joe Gould, a strange but alluring figure who shuffles his way around town begging for handouts, yet who claims to be a writer currently involved in authoring a monumental "oral history" of the world around him. Intrigued by this true eccentric, Mitchell decides to feature Gould in one of his magazine pieces. Thus, the two Joes spend countless hours together as Mitchell examines, records and tries to understand the lifestyle and thoughts of this most unique and extraordinary of individuals.
The best part about "Joe Gould's Secret" is that it allows the title character to remain something of an enigma throughout. It doesn't try to "explain" him or rob him of the ambiguity that makes him so fascinating a figure. In many ways, Gould fits perfectly the image of the artist we have come to romanticize and even glorify in our minds over the years.
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Thematically rich film even though it has trouble juggling everything smoothly. Tucci never really prioritizes his themes and as a result, the profoundness of the "secret" is obscured. I was still won over however because, well, because these topics are just not given enough attention in mainstream films. On the surface, it appears that Tucci is examining the tumultuous relationship between the two Joes, but the real subject is the equally chaotic relationship between artists and their artistic endeavours. Tucci examines how artists endure much suffering for their work and as a result, they tread a fine line between genius and madness. He also seems to be saying that if the artistic impulse is not reined in, it can potentially become destructive because the truth that artists feel compelled to convey is much too complex and diverse to be expressed merely by the simple tools at the artists' disposal. In fact, Gould's oral history reminded me of the director's rushes at the end of Assayas' "Irma Vep" -- an unrestrained vision gone haywire, short circuited by the futile attempt to express grand and divine ideas in a conventional format. Tucci touches upon other themes as well, such as the difference between patronage and commercialism, the root of artistic inspiration, the responsibility of journalists for their subjects, etc. but they do not really go anywhere. When the "secret" is revealed, in a most nonchalant manner, by the closing captions of the film (the "secret" is actually multi-layered -- there is another "secret" on the story surface, readily apparent just from the plot), a chill went down my spine. Read more ›
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