Although little-known today, Paul Goodman and his ideas deserve to be heard.
PAUL GOODMAN CHANGED MY LIFE (Jonathan Lee). 89 minutes. Opens Friday (December 9). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
Paul Goodman would have loved the Occupy movement.
More importantly, the Occupy movement would love to have Goodman around. The clear-eyed humanist social critic could have found a way to articulate the demands of the 99 per cent that would have stood up to the dirty-hippie narrative spun by some in the media last month.
Goodman, who died in 1972, made his name as a radical gadfly in the early 60s, advocating a complete overhaul of the education system (especially at the post-secondary level) and cogently defending gay rights on panel shows as an unapologetic bisexual.
His memoir Growing Up Absurd is cited as a touchstone for a generation of queer activists, but this remarkable man is barely remembered now. When the Vietnam War protests shifted the spotlight from older academics to the simpler, easily understood messaging of their students, Goodman fell by the wayside.
Director Jonathan Lee aims to revive Goodman's legacy, using archival footage and thoughtful interviews with surviving friends and relations to create a portrait of a man who was quite literally too complicated for his times. He repeatedly cheated on his wife, mostly with men, but was refreshingly open about it; it's equally admirable that Lee doesn't play down this element of Goodman's character, drawing a sharp contrast between the public figures of his subject's era and those of today.