“King Cohen” is the documentary on the life and work of filmmaker Larry Cohen, covering his entire career, from working on and directing television pilots, and blaxploitation, to horror, and studio blockbusters.
Writer/director Steve Mitchell interviews a slew of film industry people for this documentary, starting off with his subject’s early career and taking the viewer all the way until very recent work. His interviews are varied, including the likes of Martin Scorsese, Fred Williamson, both the first and current Mrs. Cohen, etc. The bulk of the film is spent with Mr. Cohen himself and some of his collaborators.
While King Cohen is an interesting documentary on a filmmaker’s career creating and expectation of subjectivity, it does tend to only (almost only) show people talking positively (to very positively) about Mr. Cohen, with the exception of Fred Williamson who is very clear that not all was always roses. His presence actually feels like a breath of fresh air and how his talk is edited, with Cohen saying basically the opposite at times, adds a fun element to things and a balance to the fan fest that are everybody elses interviews. Williamson’s interview feels different, a bit more honest maybe, not that the others cannot have only positive things to say, but it seems surprising that he is the only one with more than just glowing statements. His interview seems more real, more like a friend would do, telling the truth and poking fun, and how he really is while still respecting him.
The way the film is built gives it a rhythm with first seeing a scenes from one of Larry Cohen’s films, then interviews about that film and that period in his life in an alternating pattern that will help even those unfamiliar with his career to follow the film and learn more about a prolific artist. The editing by Kai Thomasian made this type of back and forth easy to watch, and the way the interviews are shot with cinematography by David C.P. Chan helped keep a cohesive look to the film.
“King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen” is an interesting film in terms of learning about some of cinema and television’s history. It will be a fantastic addition to fans of Larry Cohen’s film collection. Non-fans may not care too much for it as it is fairly one-sided on its view of the filmmaker. It’s an interesting watch and good for learning a few things, but it’s like most documentary of its genre, it tends to feel a bit like fan worship for a lot of its runtime which will be grating to some.
Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.