A touching documentary about the life, career and love between the Iron Man actor and the underground director who passed away last year.
An emotional documentary about the relationship between Robert Downey Jr. (57) and his father, who passed away in the summer of 2021. Chris Smith's Sr. (on Netflix) covers the life, career and last days of maverick and rebellious director Robert Downey Sr. A personal, intimate portrait that directly involves the life of one of the world's highest paid actors.
Robert lays himself bare, letting us into his home, as he films his Parkinson's patient father, asks him questions or as he relates with his children. Sr. is a love letter between a son and a parent, a black and white tale that began in July 2019 and ends in May 2021. (Robert Downey Sr. passed away in July). As the Iron Man actor puts it: '"his film wants to come full circle with its positives, negatives and undefined".
The plot of Sr.
Journey begins in July 2019 at Robert Downey Jr.'s home: 'This is a crazy, bizarre, attempt to understand my father and his divine creativity,' says the actor. The documentary takes us into the recent "here and now" and into the past, into the 1960s and 1970s through stock footage and scenes ii films of Sr. himself: a rebel of underground cinema. "A figure that always loomed over me," Jr. reveals, "for years I was Bob Downey's son.
We come across some of his films such as Chafed Elbows (1966) about a lunatic who marries his mother, Babo 73 or The Sweet Smell of Sex. Lines would form in New York to see them. "The time with him was perfect, wonderful and exquisitely crazy," says producer Norman Lear of Sr. 'There is a kind of benign nihilism in his cinematography,' adds actor Alan Arkin. "What he liked was his overwhelming humour. Putney Swope(1969) is described in the media of the time as 'funny and biting, absurd, mythical, cryptic and topical, released in the midst of civil rights unrest. It was a mirror of society". Also appreciating the art of Robert Downey Sr. is Paul Thomas Anderson who called him for a small part in his Boogie Nights: 'I have always been enchanted and fascinated by his cinema,' he declares.
Robert Downey Jr.'s set debut at the age of 5
Jr. traces the artistic life of the director who will also offer his directorial insight on this documentary, which he calls "his freest film". A look at the streets and people of his beloved New York. When he shot films in Los Angeles for 15 years, it was the worst time of his life and career.
Inevitably in Bob Sr.'s films also ended up Robert Downey Jr. who as a child had become accustomed to falling asleep with the sound of the clapperboard. Pound in 1970 was his first film, he was 5 years old: 'We got him acting because we didn't have a babysitter,' says his father, 'from that moment on, I knew he was going to be an actor'.
Robert Downey Jr. and drugs
IWhat was your father like? Chris Smith asks Robert. "Complicated because he focused his attention on finding a muse," he replies, "and I knew we were not like any other family." Sr. used to take him to see adult films, such as Marco Ferreri's The Big Binge, an X-rated film. "It certainly wasn't Fantasia," Robert comments.
Then came drugs, marjuana, which the father made his son try. For a period of his life he was 'a junkie'. And his son followed in his footsteps. In Los Angeles, the young Robert began working in films such as Beyond All Limits (1987): 'I used to get high,' says the Iron Man actor, 'and the shocking thing is to think that I was able to finish films. "Getting Jr. to try marjuana was a big mistake," his father admits. "It took 20 years to get me back on my feet," Robert confesses. Thanks to his second wife Laura Ernst Sr. he began to take care of himself and move away from drugs.
Film as a grieving process
The documentary also follows Sr. Jr.'s journey towards death. During the months of filming, Parkinson's left ever more evident marks: the filmmaker's mobility was drastically reduced, but his son did not stop filming and confronting him: "Cinema has always brought us together. And it continues to do so until the end".
Even in this circumstance, the eye of the camera scrutinising reality was a form of support for Bob Sr. and the more famous Downey, who during filming began his journey of grieving. A path that his father had also faced after Laura's death from Lou Gehrig's disease, precisely through cinema and his film Piscine in which he talks about a sick man, a boy high on drugs and the change of father.
Written by Michael Zippo
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