New Vonnegut Documentary is Moving But Distracted

John Griswold in The Common Reader:

IFC Films has released a new documentary on Kurt Vonnegut, co-directed by Robert Weide, who in the process of filming Vonnegut over decades created a close relationship with the writer. The film traces this connection, even as it shows Weide’s failure to make his original conception of the documentary—for 40 years.

Weide has won three Emmys, including for his work on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and has made previous documentaries on comedians he loves, such as Lenny Bruce, the Marx Brothers, WC Fields, and Woody Allen. Those subjects contain darker impulses, and this new film plays off the seeming dichotomy between the comedic and the angry/traumatized/depressed, but it does not go very deep in this.

Vonnegut, following Arthur Koestler, thought the human neocortex an evolutionary mistake that led to suffering and extinction, but he insisted we have the free will to be more moral. When his hope for better behavior fails he makes jokes, and when those fail due to grim evidence, he can say only, “So it goes,” as he does a hundred times in Slaughterhouse-Five.

More here.