Can you capture the essence of an artist’s working life in just 22 minutes?
You’d be on firm ground if you argued ‘no’, particularly when that artist was Philip Seymour Hoffman, an actor of rare talent who died of a drug overdose last month at just 49 years old.
Although he died young, Hoffman squeezed 47 films into his 22 years as a screen actor. While he was best known for his films, he had a long and critically-lauded stage career both as a director and actor, winning numerous accolades including a Tony award in 2000 for his work in Sam Shepherd’s True West.
Trying to capture any aspect of a person’s life in under half an hour is a task that risks committing an injustice to their memory, but Hoffman, unlike the rest of us, left 200 hours of his time on earth on film for all to see.
Film-maker Caleb Slain took on the daunting job of watching all of Phillip Seymour’s Hoffman’s films to piece together a bigger story, that of Hoffman the man as seen through his characters.
“Compiling his legacy has been one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever faced as an editor, and yet indescribably rewarding,” writes Slain of his unconventional biography.
“I can assure you that after 22 years on screen and nearly fifty films, we now look at the work of an actor who never had a single dishonest moment on camera. I know because I’ve seen them all. Please take a breather and raise your glasses to one of our greatest.”
Starting with Law & Order in 1991 and following Hoffman’s career through to his final movie A Late Quartet, Slain lifted moments from Hoffman’s filmography to create a fitting homage to a lost great.