directed by Ralph Arlyck
USA 2005

 

In 1969, student filmmaker Ralph Arlyck released the short documentary “Sean” to much acclaim and controversy. The title character, a four year growing up in the now legendary Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, spoke openly about his hippie Communist parents, his hatred for cops and even claimed to smoke pot, though he said he preferred to eat it. “Sean” played widely at festivals and prompted viewers to predict that little Sean would grow to be either a serial killer or a stock broker (one of which generally involves being a sociopath.)

Twenty five years later, Arlyck, still making films for a living, decided to catch up with Sean to see if any of the dire predictions came true. Arlyck instead encounters a thirty-one year old working Joe who likes to hang out with his buddies and go shooting. Arlyck follows Sean off and on over the next ten years, and also catches up with Sean’s parents: the mother (Susie) who has moved on in life, and the father (Johnny) who still clings to his rebellious anti-capitalist youth.

As shooting progresses, Sean gets married, has kids and keeps on working: it’s the last part that Sean’s dad has trouble with. Arlyck devotes as much attention to his own life as to Sean’s, particularly his marriage to Elizabeth who moves to France for a prolonged teaching gig thus putting their long-term relationship through the wringer. Following in the footsteps of Ross McElwee, Arlyck uses a poetic voice-over to stitch together multiple sources: home movies, archival footage, and newly shot material. But his contemplation on the relationship of past and present (using the magic of editing to instantly traverse 30 year spans) plays much more like Robb Moss’ magnificent film “The Same River Twice” (2003).

Arlyck doesn’t unearth as many profundities in his time-leaping meditation as Moss did. His footage of 1960s Haight-Ashbury is limited aside from the “Sean” film, and the contemporary Sean remains more of an aloof figure than a point of identification. What are we to make of the fact that yesterday’s hippie spawn is today’s middle class working stiff? Does this represent the petering-out of a movement (the “crest of a wave” turned back as Hunter Thompson described it) or just the inevitable differences between generations? These are fertile fields, but the film never digs deeply into them. Arlyck’s personal diary doesn’t dovetail well with the rest of the footage: the film is a perpetual tug of war between first person and objective points of view, leaving a fractured narrative line in its wake.

If it’s not quite profound, it’s still pretty compelling material. Johnny, Sean’s father, emerges as the most perplexing and intriguing character. Viewers will either see him as a purist who never sold out or a failed ex-hippie who has to mooch off his son so he can afford to rant about the evils of the bourgeoisie, or perhaps a little bit of both. Also, Arlyck’s dewy-eyed nostalgic look back at Sean’s “honest to goodness American Communist” grandparents (including grandfather Arch who testified before the Senate) serves as a much needed palliative to Ann Coulter’s dewy-eyed, panty-moistened nostalgic exhumation of Joe McCarthy.

Christopher Long

Poster

Theatrical Release: Jan 13, 2006 (USA)

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DVD Review: New Video Group - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Christopher Long for the Review!

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Distribution

New Video Group

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:27:30.
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.3 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (DD 2.0)
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: New Video Group

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Original Film
• Additional Scenes
• Audio Interview with Director

DVD Release Date: 03-27-2007
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Chapters 12

 

 

Comments:

The transfer is not progressive, and features numerous examples of combing (see below.) The image quality varies with the multiple sources: grainy black and white stock from the 60s, even grainier archival footage, and new color material which varies in quality throughout as you might expect from a movie shot over the course of ten years.

The DVD includes the original film “Sean” (1969, 14 min.) that served as the genesis for the project. “Following Sean” uses several scenes from this short, but it’s still nice to have it available in its entirety. Other features include Additional Scenes (14 min.) and an audio interview (20 min.) with Arlyck on Minnesota Public Radio from March 2006. The audio interview did not work on my copy of the DVD, but I have no idea if that was unique to my copy or a broader production problem.

 - Christopher Long

 



DVD Menus


 

 


Screen Captures


First two pics show Sean at Age 4 and at age 31

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


 
Example of combing

 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

New Video Group

Region 1 - NTSC




 

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