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American Anarchist (2016)

TV-MA | | Documentary | 8 October 2016 (USA)
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The story of one of the most infamous books ever written, "The Anarchist Cookbook," and the role it's played in the life of its author, now 65, who wrote it at 19 in the midst of the counterculture upheaval of the late '60s and early '70s.

Director:

Charlie Siskel

Writer:

Charlie Siskel
3 nominations. See more awards »

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William Powell William Powell ... Himself
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The story of one of the most infamous books ever written, "The Anarchist Cookbook," and the role it's played in the life of its author, now 65, who wrote it at 19 in the midst of the counterculture upheaval of the late '60s and early '70s.

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Documentary

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TV-MA | See all certifications »
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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 October 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amerikos anarchistas See more »

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Features Bowling for Columbine (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Very Unfairly treated Bill
4 July 2017 | by nicole-484See all my reviews

When I was 19, I worked in a hippie bookstore that carried "The Anarchist Cookbook." We kept it behind the counter, along with other naughty books ("The Joy of Lesbian Sex"; even "The Satanic Verses".)

At the time, we all thought it was very, very COOL-- and naturally, deliciously subversive-- that we were selling this book.

Point being: 19.

This film bothered me tremendously, most of all for Siskel's indignation, which somehow seemed irrelevant to me. Of COURSE the book is atrocious. Of COURSE the book has motivated many a disturbed individual to commit heinous acts-- one here in Salt Lake City, in fact, where Mark Hoffman (the "Salamander Letters" forger) purchased the book from that hippie bookstore, and used it to make bombs that killed two people in 1985.

My point is, viewers get it. Powell gets it. Powell's wife gets it.

But I am not so sure about Charlie Siskel. At one point the filmmaker presents a barrage of horrific acts committed by people in possession of "The Anarchist Cookbook." (was I the only one who wondered why we were all being flogged with this theory, considering what can now be so easily found on the Internet?) We even get to hear that Senator Feinstein think Powell's book should be "removed from the internet." (Huh?)

The best part of the film is the backstory about Powell's troubled boyhood. This part of the film is genuinely moving, and made me think of Frank Conroy's lovely and dark book, "Stop Time." Powell tries again and again to gently articulate that there is something to be learned-- a connection worth exploring-- between alienated youngsters in a damaged world, and dangerous ideas and rhetoric. Powell tell us, "my skeleton is not in the closet," and continues (with amazing forbearance, I thought) to explore the impact of "The Anarchist Cookbook."

Towards the end, Powell lights up briefly and long enough to describe the subject of one of his other books. Siskel goes at him with his thesis doggedly, and one last time, before the camera lights on Powell's baffled, bemused countenance.(I could just hear Siskel going, "Gotcha!"). This film felt to me like a dumbed-down version of a much, much more complicated history and story.


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