Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life

Michael Paxton's 145-minute documentary portrait of the Russian-born novelist (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged) and philosopher is absorbing but not entirely trustworthy about what it chooses to include and omit from her life. (Her 14-year affair with her young acolyte and intellectual heir, Nathaniel Branden—a relationship that ended in acrimony—is accorded only three and a half minutes.) What this film chooses to concentrate on, however, it handles potently: her lifelong hatred of communism and collectivism, her worship of Hollywood (and early acquaintance with Cecil B. De Mille), her romantic predilections, her careers as screenwriter, playwright, and eclectic guru. Paxton ably incorporates original animation, contemporary interviews with friends and associates, and a great deal of archival material (mainly film clips and footage of Rand speaking). Don't expect any critical perspectives on the woman, however; this is hagiography all the way.

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