Netflix premiered ‘Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold’ a doc about literary icon Joan Didion. The documentary offers an intimate view of Didion’s successful career and personal struggles.
Directed by Griffin Dunne, Didion’s nephew, who opened up about working with her aunt on the film.
An Intimate look to Joanne Didion’s carreer
‘Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold’ arrived last week on Netflix, offering an intimate look at the life of the celebrated novelist and essayist. The documentary was the product of a family work, it was produced by Joanne’s grandniece Annabelle Dunne, and directed by Joanne’s nephew Griffin Dunne.
The Dunne-Didion clan are a storied family whose members are significant cultural forces. Sadly, they’re also a clan rived by tragedy, which touched the work of the essayist recently.Two of Didion’s most celebrated recent works concern the deaths of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, and her daughter, Quintana Roo.
The film offers an insight of Joanne’s life with footage and interviews with her close people. Such as her longtime book editor, Shelley Wanger, and David Hare, who directed the 2007 Broadway adaptation of Didion’s memoir, ‘The Year of Magical Thinking.’ As well as Hilton Als, Calvin Trillin, and Bob Silvers.
But, the interviews conducted by Griffin to Joanne are the ones that provide the most insight, delivering observational moments.
The film kicks off with visuals of 1960s San Francisco with hippies everywhere, which is logical considering her writings on 1960s and 70s America. And goes all the way till the present day moment. ‘The Center Will Not Hold’ is an elegy to someone who is still alive, which is one of the rarest and yet amazing things.
Iconic writer and enigmatic personality
Joan Didion has left quite a mark in both fiction and literary journalism in which she explores the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos.Didion’s overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
“People with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract,” she wrote for Vogue in 1961.
“Sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues…. Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”
She also holds the credit for the explosion of personal essay-writing that, fueled by the internet and its egotisms, would later become known as the first-person industrial complex. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means,” Joan Didion confessed in 1976.
She has received several acknowledgments for her novels and essays, including the National Book Foundation’s annual Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2007. And the National Medal of Arts and Humanities in 2013.
While her writing has made her one of the most iconic American writers, her enigmatic personality has made her a singular kind of celebrity giving rise to Joan Didion, the icon. While she and her husband lived in L.A. they socialized with personalities such as Harrison Ford, Janis Joplin, and Steen Spielberg, and Brian De Palma, and Martin Scorsese, and Warren Beatty.
Reflecting on the movie
Director Griffin Dunnes hadn’t always planned to make a doc about his aunt. The idea first came to be when they collaborated on a trailer for her 2011 memoir, ‘Blue Nights,’ he realized Didion was long overdue for the documentary treatment.
“I asked her and from the moment she said yes, I said, ‘Oh, boy, I’m in for it now. This person means a lot to a lot of people,’ ” recalls Dunne. Who also admits that it was emotionally challenging to ask her to relive these moments, and found it difficult to press her on tough topics.
“I felt like I was torturing her, making her go through it, that was the hardest part. The advantage of making this movie was that she let me, because I’m related.”But the downside was because I’m related and I know, I’ve watched, and felt as a family member what she went through. It was very difficult to ask her to look back at it on camera.”
While the filming process offered hard moments of intimate questions, for Dunn it was harder when they first screened the film together. The filmmaker wanted to know if his aunt was satisfied with the outcome.
“But I wanted her to see it at that point just to… If she wanted to say, ‘You’re crazy. I can’t stand this. Stop work immediately.’ I wanted to know if I was sort of in the right direction.” For his satisfaction, when they got into the hour and half screening Joanne was more than satisfied by the film.
Source: The Atlantic