Film review: My Father and the Man in Black (15)


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The Independent Culture

This scrapbook memoir of an American legend plays out against an Oedipal struggle that might have gone unacknowledged.

When Saul Holiff took his own life in 2005 without leaving a note, his estranged son Jonathan discovered a lock-up of audio tapes, letters and memorabilia relating to the old man's managerial relationship with Johnny Cash, and the family he neglected in its long unfolding.

Saul was a Jewish entrepreneur and a gambler who took a risk on a Southern Baptist country star that eventually paid off, though both men would suffer mightily along the way. It seems quite incredible that Cash managed to stand up, let alone walk the line, with all the pills and booze inside him. Saul would also lose himself to drink.

The reconstructions of key episodes that Holiff directs feel synthetic and unconvincing, but the pull of the narrative is very strong, and by the end the sense of lives baffled and unfulfilled rises to something extraordinarily poignant.