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‘Searching for Mr. Rugoff’ Review: Man Behind the Movies

‘Searching for Mr. Rugoff’ Review: Man Behind the Movies
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‘Searching for Mr. Rugoff’ Review: Man Behind the Movies

‘Searching for Mr. Rugoff’ Review: Man Behind the Movies

Not all documentaries feature their director calling their subject a “terrible kind of person.” But “Searching for Mr. Rugoff” by Ira Deutchman happily looks at the man in his entirety: Donald S. Rugoff, the influential distributor, New York theater impresario and certifiable “work” (to quote a testimony).

During a meteoric run through the 1960s and 1970s, Rugoff tackled visionary films that made audiences sit back and notice: “Z,” “Sorrow and Pity,” “Gimme Shelter “,” Scenes From a Marriage “,” The Man Who Fell to Earth “,” Harlan County USA “,” Nothing But A Man “,” Putney Swope “,” WR: Mysteries of the Organism “and , yes, “Monty Python and the Holy Graal”.

As a former employee and later distributor and producer, Deutchman brings first-hand insight into the indefatigable Mr. Rugoff (deceased 1989). It brings together an amused and amused circle of fellow veterans of Rugoff’s distribution company Cinema 5, old-school commentators, Rugoff’s ex-wife and sons, and grateful filmmakers (Lina Wertmuller, Robert Downey Sr ., Costa-Gavras). Deutchman, a professor at Columbia University, also travels to Edgartown, Mass., For traces of Rugoff’s life after taking over his business.

As someone who grew up going to some of the theaters Rugoff once ran – which included Cinema I and II and the Beekman, among others – I had the warmth and vagueness of seeing the love here for the cinema and exhibition, which he tasted with a sense of gonzo showmanship. Likewise for the brief inclusion of Dan Talbot, fellow distributor and theater maven, whose cinemas and New Yorker Films’ unrivaled catalog also remain at the heart of the medium. It’s all part of a vital story of film culture that continues in new and different ways today.

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In search of Mr. Rugoff
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 43 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or purchase from Google Play, Apple TV, and other streaming services.

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