SALINGER: DOCUMENTARY: DIRECTOR SHANE SALERNO. RATED B+.
This film was created by Shane Salerno along with others. Mr. Salerno in an interview with Charlie Rose stated he spent ten years researching Salinger along with his writing partner David Shields. (There is a book released concurrently with the film.)
The film attempts to document the life of J.D. Salinger his loves and philosophy of life through interviews, film clips and some reenactments. A documentary on someone as controversial as Salinger is difficult to do because of the long time frame covered. Also Salinger eschewed contact with the media and led a semi reclusive life in Cornish New Hampshire after the publication off his most famous book Catcher In The Rye. Thus there are no media interviews directly with Salinger either written or filmed. Also Salinger was famous for the litigation of biographies about his personal life prior to his death due to natural causes on January 27, 2010 at the age of 91. This was probably why Salerno and associates waited 10 years to release the film and book.
This film has interviews with many famous people like John Cusack, Martin Sheen, Philip Seymour Hoffman , Tom Wolf and others who apparently did not know Salinger personally but read the book along with at least 60 million young adults and 250 thousand new people each year. It is assigned reading in many high schools. These interviews, while pleasant, were probably added to the film for their publicity value by the distributor; the Weinstein Company. The documentary runs 2 hours and 9 minutes.
The other interviews are with people who knew him before the publication of Catcher and ex girl friends like Joyce Maynard and Jean Miller.
There are no interviews with former wives or his son Matthew b. 1960. Salinger was married 3 times: Colleen O’Neill m. 1988 to 2010, Claire Douglas, mother of his two children, m. 1955-1967, Sylvia Welter m. 1945 to 1967. There is an interview with daughter Margaret b. 1955. This takes place in 2000 with Katie Couric just after publication of her memoir of life with her father called Dream Catcher, A Memoir. During the interview she admits she has had no recent contact with her father. Elsewhere her brother wrote a criticism of her book as fantasy.
The major critics have been highly critical of the film because it fails to quote from Salinger’s written works or offer in depth commentary on the works. Probably because the works are subject to copyright and the copyright to all his writings are in a literary trust With Colleen and Mathew as trustees.
However it does discuss Salinger’s combat experience from D-Day to V-E Day and that he served in some of the fiercest battles including the Battle of the Bulge and was at the liberation of Dachau. The film shows graphic details of the horrors and stress he was exposed to as combat infantryman.
The film opines he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that this colored his thinking and writing. Salinger wrote approximately five chapters of Catcher while fighting in Europe. Also it reveals that Salinger was a believer of Buddhism and this influenced his writing and life.
The film was informative and interesting and the mainstream critics are too harsh in their judgment of the film. It is a documentary worth seeing and raises questions about how Salinger, a man that has influenced so many young adults, came to write such an iconic and influential novel as Catcher. It adds to the discussion of this author and his life’s work. The book spoke to so many people and touched so many lives in varying ways one cannot but want to know more about this complex man.