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Unqualified Praise for Mark Twain.,
This review is from: Mark Twain (DVD)This has to be one of the best documentaries on a literary figure that has ever been made. In the hands of Ken Burns, the richness and subtlety, the humour and tragedy, the successes and dismal failures and a true sustained analysis of the life of Samuel Clemens all combines to give us a personal and intellectual understanding of this towering literary icon of the 19th century. Twain was many things - a riverboat pilot, printer, journalist, miner, speculator, failed business man, and satirist, but most of all a novelist, a grand storyteller that spoke to royalty, presidents as well as the common people. Ernest Hemingway once said that American literature began with the publication of Huckleberry Finn. Twain chose to write this book in the language of the vernacular, while other writers maintained an allegiance to English prose, Huck Finn's voice rose above conformity, informing the American public that the black American was not just a commodity, an object of scorn and prejudice, but a human being. This book not only changed our views on literature but our humanity as well. This film does not skim over the surface of Twain's life and work, but digs deeper into his motivations and inspirations in the context of his environment.
~Mark Twain~ took almost three years to produce, which includes hundreds of photographs, actual film footage of the man at home, informed interviews with Twain scholars and writers that give us keen insights into his life and work. What this film shows is that not only is his literature extraordinary, but his life as well. And this life is told mainly through the words of the man himself. Twain lived a dual persona, the man and the celebrity. As another writer has said, this dual persona came to symbolize the emerging American conflict between down-to-earth-morality and freewheeling ambition. Twain lived an extravagant life though hated everything that this represented. He was the author of the Gilded Age, a scathing satire on the post civil war period in which the country prospered and money was worshiped above all things, yet his wealth and lifestyle emulated that very thing he was satirizing. He claimed that he wasn't American, but 'the' American. He was a man of genius and contradictions but above all, human, a man who showed us through his work, with a sly wink, that we're all human and essentially in the same boat.
This film is undoubtedly one of the best portraits of Mark Twain ever to be done. After watching the film in its entirety, I was hard pressed to find any genuine criticisms, other than minor quibbles and therefore not worth mentioning. If this sounds like unqualified praise for ~Mark Twain~, it is.