Howard Bleach | earth | 09/11/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This pretentious presentation does a great disservice to one of America's finest writers. From the tacky and overwrought music that plays over the entire film to the choice to have a female narrator read the man's great works, this shameless, arsty and bland biography will offend anyone with even a passing interest in the great Ernest Hemingway. Avoid at all costs."
Hemingway was GREAT.........this documentary was NOT.
J. K. Cantwell | Texas | 07/10/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary was a good introduction to Hemingway's life and writing but left a lot out. I was expecting a more exciting overview of his life than this. I also didn't like the fact that there was a female voice reading from his work.... it almost felt like I was listening to a female author rather than the beloved Papa. I would recommend this DVD only to hardcore Hemingway readers who want everything."
Decent but not Definitive
Billyjack D'Urberville | USA | 02/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The reason to have this is the interviews -- both those included in the 1 and 1/2 hour film, and in the additional snippets appended afterwards. A.E. Hotchner, much maligned friend and author of Papa Hemingway, always has new and insightful things to say. Daughter in law and sometime secretary Valerie Hemingway has genuine insight into EH's aesthetic affinity for bull-fighting. Patrick Hemingway has his father's directness although a quite different personality. Peter Viertel was good to see and hear.
Unfortunately the academic commentators, while fine, were a little chatty and did not include anyone from the handful of very top scholars now available.
The treatment is typical PBS post-Ken Burns music/words over pictures montage. As Chief Dan George said in Little Big Man, sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't. The female reading EH manuscript was fine in short, early stuff like the Three Shots opener; being female gave appropriate distance to young Nick's distance. But it didn't work for later fictions. The music, sure, will offend some; with me it goes in one ear, out the other; I expect it on TV. Maybe I shoudn't; as one prior reviewer noted, this can all get crass. Particularly deplorable is the lone gunshot heard out in the distance as the closer -- bad taste apparently combined with some kind of implicit commentary that a writing career beginning with 3 shots, ending with one, is all about guns. Or maybe National Propaganda TV means to lecture us on gun control.
Obviously you can't pack EH's work and adventures or complex personality into this amount of time. Quite a bit of what would help ordinary viewers new to EH (which you have to assume with a film like this) is included. Main faults though: (1) over-simplifying the Spanish war to the modern viewer; (2) mindlessly parroting the critical line on many books, particularly Across the River; (3) failing to highlight the divergance between what EH published in later years with the vast, major literary experiments he was undertaking, but which would remain unpublished until his death. But all in all, the only really critical mis-statement was a minor piece of fluff -- "EH was the father of film noir." The 2 main strengths: (1) highlighting the direct influences of Fitzgerald and Stein; (2) not flinching from personality problems of EH, but putting them in context of his overall emotional sensitivity.
I would give it 3.75 stars. It is certainly safe for students and an improvement over what has previously been out there, but needs further explication."
Not for High School Students
Teacher | 11/28/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you want your high school students to watch a biography of Ernest Hemingway, do not choose this one. It will put them to sleep. I showed it to my freshman and quickly realized the error of my ways. I have never seen the students so disinterested. This biography is for viewers who already have a basic knowledge of Hemingway's life and the times in which he lived. Most of the allusions to other writers and books went over their heads. Additionally, the mood of the piece is somber and sad--it didn't seem to capture Hemingway's spirit. Trust me on this one--unless you have a group of serious, mature students who already know the main details of his Hemingway's life, don't buy it for the classroom."