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Rental Unit: "This So-Called Disaster"

The work was influenced by Shepard's strained relationship with his late father, a recluse killed by a car after stumbling blind drunk onto the road. "Disaster" is a fine example of a documentary as profile, offering a glimpse of one of America's most celebrated dramatists and the crafting of a performance between him and some of this country's finest actors. Its on-the-fly aesthetic and loose narrative fit the sensibility of its groundbreaking and highly influential subject, who came of age amid the experimentation of the '60s.

The film even manages to catch glimpses of his players, taking brief looks at Penn, the rebellious high-school auteur who must now schedule rehearsal around the kids, and Nolte, going back to work immediately after a four-day watch over his mother's deathbed. "She literally showed me how to die," he relates in one of the movie's many moving interviews.

Directors Michael Almereyda and Michael Lasciak capture insightful stories even though, oddly enough, the back of the DVD misleadingly advertises banal infighting and the melodrama of a "reality" show. None of this is true. "This So-Called Disaster" is not a tale of a catastrophe, but an inside look at what talented, professional artists can pull out of them. — Wayne Melton

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