Robert Caro is the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of “The Power Broker” and also writer of four volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson. He has been diligently writing the fifth volume of LBJ. Caro is 86. Robert Gottlieb has been Caro’s primary editor since 1970, and is the former editor-in-chief at Knopf. Gottlieb is 91.
The public and fans have anticipated this 5th book and as Caro states, the writing process takes several years. The editor’s filmmaker daughter, Lizzie Gottlieb, has been working on this documentary for over five years. The documentary is very engaging as the two gentlemen talk about their respective work and yet, hold some of the information as very private – not to be shared with sound when they are in the editing room together. Fans may want to hear what goes on, but even the scenes with the sound off at the end of the film still capture their very good and long standing relationship.
The film may not be for everyone, but most certainly will be for writers, and people who love to read books – especially the biographies that Caro is so well known for. I enjoyed viewing the author’s ways of spending time at his desk and dedication to writing every day. As an elder and someone who has been writing successfully for decades, these words are like gems for writers and avid readers alike. I believe it should give the public an opportunity to see what the process is like and that a book does not develop out of thin air, or like magic when a book is requested on any topic.
There is beauty in watching the gentlemen discuss their recollections about how they started out working on The Power Broker, as well as doing the research in Texas to learn more about Johnson. Some elder storytellers who are recounting their memories may tend to sound long -winded, but the documentary is well done to be respectful of leaving in details instead of cutting parts of it for purposes of time.
With the filmmaker at the helm working with her father and having known the author for so much of her life, she is able to elicit information that is perhaps more personal than if another filmmaker was asking the questions. This is such a great project she has undertaken for their families and now able to share with the world.
For people of a certain age, they may be pleased to see that Caro still uses carbon paper and both the author and editor insist on using regular (not mechanical) pencils when they work together. These two gentlemen are very aware of their age and what they still want to achieve, and it is great to see them remain ready to reach their goals at this stage of their lives.
The documentary is available at the Austin Film Society Cinema as of January 27th 2023.
Source: Sony Pictures Classics