A terrible military policy, now thankfully repealed, gets psychically unpeeled, story by story, through virtuoso actor Marc Wolf. Wolf has the wattage of Lili Tomlin, the brilliance of Spalding Gray, or the physical-psychological discipline of Ron Vawter. (The video record of Vawter's "Roy Cohn/Jack Smith" performance is rather perfunctory -- would that he could have had as sympathetic and wise a collaborator as John Walsh -- and his creative consultant Mary Harron.)
Director John Walsh cannily sets the performance in a spare, abandoned military base, the better to consider each story as a historical artifact. But the raw wound of the DADT policy -- and the scars it left on our women and men in uniform are acutely, undeniably present in the staging and acting.
This is an exorcism of the stories told, told by an actor channeling the conscience and spirit of every person he interviewed. There is an burnished, eerie resonance to each characterization, as Wolf re-presents the glances, tics, speech patterns, postures of the interviewees, many of whom asked to remain anonymous.
Walsh's team in sound design and editing are superb, creating a lively, stylish surface that Wolf's chameleonized performances skip bounces off of like a stone.
The result is an unforgettable compendium of 18 characters, distilled hundreds of interviews, comprising 1,000 hours. Wolf's spadework in getting these this mosaic of stories is incredible -- and the movie is a masterclass of how to refract documentary material into a compelling performance.
(Petty point: The advertising poster for the film -- at least at the preview screening I saw of DADT -- was awful. I know it was meant to evoke the Prop 8 ads, pasting duct tape over the mouth of a screaming soldier. It has a shrillness not at all contained in the movie and thus misrepresents and dodges the humanity of what Wolf/Walsh team is doing. And the soldier portrayed is NOT EVEN WOLF... Jeez, Wolf's the only performer in the movie! Never mind this quibble: The movie itself is wonderful though.)
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