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March 25, 2019

King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (2017) Documentary Review

I got the screener for this documentary last year, but being a lazy asshole, I never got around to it. With the recent passing of Mr. Cohen, I thought it was high time I STOP being a lazy asshole and view it. Now that I’ve watched it, I feel like even more of an asshole, and am sorry I took so long to experience it.

As someone who never really paid that close attention to the people behind the scenes of a movie (writer, director, cinematographer, etc.) I didn’t even know Larry Cohen’s name. I have, however, seen a few of his films, and they certainly have made a lasting impression.

This documentary doesn’t delve too deeply into his childhood and upbringing, but instills in us his early proclivity toward creativity and imagination. Though his career as a stand-up comedian didn’t pan out, the art behind performing and writing a good show definitely translated into his television and movie career.

It seemed natural, too, that his career evolved from writer, to director, and eventually producer. From what he (and everyone who knew him) said, he didn’t like other people screwing up his work, so why not just do it himself? That didn’t stop him from getting fired off a few jobs (when there was a separate production company involved.) But even so, by that point, he’d have gotten what he wanted from the show, and was then able to move on to other projects.

According to his second wife, he was a prolific idea man, and could write up to twenty-five pages every day!

I’m not going to discuss every film brought up in the documentary, or cover every detail explored. The one thing I really took away from this was a shared consensus on Larry’s genius. His films were powerful and raw; his creative eye allowed him to make a location as much a character as any actor in the film; his guerrilla warfare tactics on filming kept his movies more budget friendly, and it’s part of what makes his films so “Larry.”

On a more personal level, everyone interviewed for this documentary remembered Larry as a generous, kind, funny, sweet, kinda wacky, fearless man, and one of the most brilliant filmmakers to ever come around the scene. His style could never be reproduced today, which is a little sad, but also makes his legacy that much more enduring. For me, his movie, The Stuff, has always been, and continues to be, a favorite – even though, when I first saw it, I never understood its “wink wink” statement on consumerism and unethical business practices that were rampant in the eighties.

For anyone who wants to learn more about Larry Cohen, or would like a deeper look to his writing/directing life, this documentary is a must. Then go seek out his shows and movies. I know I will, and I’ll be able appreciate them from a perspective I didn’t have this morning.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Cohen.

5 Hatchets (out of 5)

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