BOOK REVIEW: DAY OF THE LIVING ME: ADVENTURES OF A CULT FILMMAKER FROM THE GOLDEN AGE (2020)

Memoirs from filmmakers tend to be a mixed bag. The best ones balance useful and entertaining trivia pertinent to the field along with mildly salacious insider stories (AKA “gossip”). It’s an added bonus when they actually illuminate the career of people whose work you found interesting, but whom you didn’t really know much about.

Jeff Lieberman is one of those “interesting” filmmakers. His work may not consistently qualify as “weird,” but he has a cult following. He makes movies that are twisted and satirical, as anyone who has seen Blue Sunshine (1977), Squirm (1976), Just Before Dawn (1981), Remote Control (1988), or Satan’s Little Helper (2004) can attest. “Day of the Living Me” collects his reminisces of the making of those films; although not in extreme detail, there’s enough to satisfy the casual reader or fan of the films.

The most interesting anecdotes concern Lieberman’s life and career outside of these films. He started as an editing assistant at (pre-Golan-Globus) Cannon Films, then took a stint in advertising,  which inspired his award winning short satire “The Ringer.” He also worked at Janus Films (before their partnership with the Criterion Collection), repurposing their titles into new product. The insider bits include entertaining tales of working with Rod Serling and Sidney Poitier narrating documentaries; early encounters with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman; coming up with the concept of the ad campaign for Ken Russell‘s Tommy (1975); and how providing help on selling Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) led to a night out with George Burns. There’s plenty more, but those anecdotes should be left for the reader to discover.

Lieberman is an excellent raconteur. Even at 192 pages, the book feels like a solid read; it’s like spending an informal evening with someone who you already suspected was interesting, only to find out they’re even more fascinating than you imagined.

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