Mini-Review: A Fuller Life (2013)

fullerlife_1Starring James Franco, Jennifer Beals, Bill Duke, James Toback, Kelly Ward, Perry Lang, Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, Joe Dante, Tim Roth, Wim Wenders, Monte Hellman, Buck Henry, Constance Towers, William Friedkin

Directed by Samantha Fuller

Expectations: High. I love Sam Fuller!


A Fuller Life is a wonderful tribute from a daughter to her father. Samantha Fuller hasn’t put together a documentary, but more a concise, visual version of Sam Fuller’s memoir, A Third Face. This approach seems like an odd choice at first, but much like the films of Sam Fuller himself, A Fuller Life carves its own path and succeeds in creating something unique and worthwhile.

The script is composed of selections from A Third Face, read by his friends, colleagues and admirers. Each person puts their own energy and interpretation into the reading, and coupled with the undeniable truth and spirit of Fuller’s words, it plays almost like a final collaboration with the iconoclast. Through their performances, Fuller’s words come alive and transcend the printed page, even for someone like me that has already read the book.

fullerlife_2Not only does this non-traditional style work for this film, it’s perhaps the only way to properly paint a picture of Sam Fuller as vibrant and affecting as the man himself. A traditional documentary might catch glimpses of the fire and the passion of his words, but in A Fuller Life it’s almost like having Fuller himself telling you a quick version of his story and struggles. The material is riveting, and each reader is exceptional well-suited to the passages they read. The film reminded me of everything I love about Sam Fuller, both the man and the director, and this overview of his life allowed me to appreciate even more just how incredible his story was.

If you’re a Fuller fan, it’s definitely worth your time, and if you’re Fuller-curious I’d say that outside of Fuller’s own films, it’s probably the best introduction you could ask for.

A Fuller Life has been recently released to DVD, currently available exclusively on the Chrisam Films website. The DVD has a few bonus interviews, as well.


4 comments to Mini-Review: A Fuller Life (2013)

  • Phil

    Great review!
    Just watched my copy the other day. Enjoyed how the ‘cast’ really got into impersonating Fuller in their readings.
    The bonus stuff was cool to hear stories about Fuller too.

    • Thanks, glad you liked the review! I also enjoyed those bonus interviews, and watching them really reinforced how the “only reading Fuller’s words” approach of the doc makes it such a unique and different film experience.

      Also, I don’t know if you’re on Twitter but on the Fuller Life account, they mentioned this doc being included in an upcoming, unannounced Criterion release! Can’t wait to see what it is (even if it’s just a re-release of something they already put out).

      • Phil

        Interesting. I did hear it would be released by criterion but I assumed as a stand alone release.
        Yeah even a re release maybe pickup on south street blu ray upgrade or something.
        Can’t wait to hear more.
        Thanks for the news!

        • Actually I went back and re-read it and it just says that Criterion would release it. So it may just be a stand alone release. I know there was a 4k restoration done of Pickup on South Street in 2015, with a Masters of Cinema disc released in the UK. So it’s also possible that that will be coming also, or possibly together as I’m guessing. In any case, I’m looking forward to it for sure!

          I also read another review of A Fuller Life that said Samantha Fuller is working on another doc composed of Fuller’s 16mm WWII footage.

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