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on January 2, 2015
I was completely taken unawares by how compelling this documentary turned out to be. First, it is a glimpse into that oft-hidden realm, the male psyche. Second, it is a stirring call to intellectual introspection, a long-lost art if you ask me. And third, it speaks to the need to review and examine great literature.

Shepard and Dark are both self-educated in a way that makes me wish more minds were capable of and/or motivated to be. They read the classics--really read the classics--mining for truths that resonate to the basic human character traits that never change throughout the ages. As young men, a chance encounter caused them to forge a lifelong friendship. On some level, they must have recognized companion souls, although Dark explains it as a "meshing" of character traits that proved complementary. They are different, but simpatico. Dark comes off as the more likable, and I wondered if his kindly character afforded an emotionally stunted Shepard a sounding board for growing up male that Shepard was denied by his alcoholic father. Shepard's father was a nasty bit of work, and Shepard cannot seem to recover from the experience. By his own admission, Shepard admits to emotional isolation and rootlessness, despite two marriages and children. The film never touches on Shepard's mother or her role in his upbringing.

Shepard, normally a very private man, comes off as tortured, lost, doomed to make the same mistakes in life, incapable of sustaining loving relationships, and a curmudgeonly loner. He openly discusses the dilemma involved in being a loner, namely, wanting to interact with people, yet incapable of enduring their company for long. However, when Dark's wife, Scarlett, sustained a brain hemorrhage, Shepard was untiring in his efforts to rehabilitate her, spending hours walking her around.

This is a very thought-provoking film, less for the prurient peek into the life of a reclusive movie star/playwright, and more for a keen psychological portrait of two complex yet fascinating men and the strange glue of their friendship. I've ordered the book of their correspondence.
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on February 3, 2014
I lived near Shepard and Dark during a period given much attention in this revelatory documentary. Johnny Dark comes off as a true spiritual seeker (he and Shepard were both involved deeply in the Gurdjieff Work for much of the time span of this film), very humble and observant of life's little redeeming moments. Their interaction during the period in which they're combing through old letters reveals Shepard as kind of a curmudgeon and a bully, apparently resentful of Johnny's participation. Those familiar with Shepard's oft-plumbed relationship with his violent alcoholic father will see how deeply embedded he is in Shepard's psyche. There are also moments of supreme sweetness here. I re-watched the film, which actually employs a frustrating yet commendable discretion regarding Shepard's relationship and break-up with actress Jessica Lange, immediately upon finishing it the first time. Anyone interested in American arts and letters, family relationships, and the 1960s' legacy will enjoy this documentary, and will profit even more if they read the recently-published book of Shepard-Dark letters. There's a nice teaser at the end: Shepard is plumbing Greek tragedies for an upcoming play called "A Particle of Dread," and Johnny says that Shepard's preoccupation with the Greek notion of fate might be a way of Shepard letting himself off the hook for many of his choices and misbehavior with those around him.
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on December 23, 2013
Following playwright-actor Sam Shepard as he and long-time bud Johnny Dark prepare a book of letters for a pile of money,
this documentary gets at the heart of one of America's greatest artistic figures without any kind of filter. Following their long
friendship from 1963 onwards--including a heartbreaking period of personal loss and domestic meltdowns--the story revolves
back to Shepard's basic obtuseness. Nothing explains his behavior, walking out on his family, and then (spoiler alert) walking out
on his friend and their project (which was eventually finished). Any insight into one of the great playwrights of our time, however,
is worth a look. I found Shepard And Dark to be an extraordinary trip into the eclipse of masculinity, which is, of course, one of
Shepard's greatest concerns. And while I was looking for any evidence of Sam Shepard's residence in Nova Scotia from 1969 to
1984--there's not a mention in the documentary--I found the film to be deeply engrossing anyways.
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on October 15, 2015
It's a "must view" for serious Shepard fans. But not so much if you're not. I am, so this was of high interest to me. The pacing of this doc is very uneven and at times just feels like a nice amiable, rambling homage to two buddies celebrating their lifetime friendship - until it's not. Ultimately it deals with friendship, relationships, solitude vs the need for companionship, and, yeah, even one's purpose on this earth. There's some success, sorrow, pain, and humor. In other words, all the elements of lives lived deeply, if not necessarily wisely. Johnny Dark is every bit as compelling and complicated as Shepard.
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on November 2, 2014
This movie was ok. The name Johnny Dark makes me wonder if there is a connection to the Johnny Darko movie (which leaves a mark on your memory). This is a documentary about Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark's long time friendship. Curiously odd film.
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on October 26, 2014
While Sam Shepard is an interesting guy, I found his friend, Johnny Dark, to be a lot more interesting, and a really good person. Watch it for Johnny Dark.
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on January 28, 2014
...and sad. Lovely, poignant and moving. But it left me wanting more. It ended on an uncertain, empty note. Maybe a sequel?
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on August 21, 2014
It will surprise you, make you laugh, make you cry, and make you think about your own relationships. I loved it!
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on May 30, 2015
Hello. My name is Lonnie PINGLETON. I am very briefly seen in the documentary SHEPARD & DARK. I am the bald man with glasses, working a floor buffer at the beginning of the film. I am sincerely greatful to Treva Wurmfeld for adding a cut of me in the film. It is a wonderful and humbling thing she has done.
A little update: Johnny Dark no longer works at the deli. He is now facing, straightening up the stock on the shelves, making the store look presentable for the customer. Sad to say I am glad he no longer works in the deli, as he had a bad habit of trying to ruin the floors, while we were trying to clean them. I hope this new job works better for him.
Still, I am not joking. I am forever greatful to Treva Wurmfeld for giving an average guy a chance to see himself on the big screen, if only for a few seconds.
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on June 3, 2014
In the first place, I couldn't believe the enigmatic Shepard even considered such a project, much less followed through with it - up to a point.

The majority of the story is delightful - two old friends reflecting on their quirky history together. How could anyone not envy the tie that bound them together for decades... in spite of everything.

But then...was it only in his look back that Dark realized he'd so often been treated by Shepard as being less than equal?

And who wouldn't ache for Shepard? Did he really reach 70 before he admitted to himself that - his writing to the contrary - he has more often than not been his father's son ?

Fascinating, informative, yet disturbing and sad.

A movie that definitely deserves a second look
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