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Joe Gould's Secret

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Joe Gould's Secret

This charming and evocative period piece about Greenwich Village in the 40s is also a subtle cautionary tale for writers against the danger of losing all your work in talk. The delicate and wryly witty screenplay by Howard A. Rodman, perhaps best known for his work with Steven Soderbergh, tells the true story of shy southern New Yorker editor Joseph Mitchell (Stanley Tucci, who also directed) discovering and profiling the legendary Joe Gould (Ian Holm in a career-defining performance). Gould, a homeless bohemian and raging lunatic--kind of a Mr. Natural before the fact--professes to be writing something called "The Oral History of Our Time," but it never quite materializes. The fact that Mitchell himself retreated into silence after writing a second Gould profile in the 60s suggests either that Gould's dissipation had a snowball effect or that Mitchell became Gould's doppelganger. Either way, this is a movie to savor, not one to scarf. With Patricia Clarkson, Hope Davis, and Susan Sarandon. Fine Arts.

--Jonathan Rosenbaum

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