The newly renovated Texas Theatre was home Monday night to a gripping new movie, by a director named Stone, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
But not that Stone. The writer-producer-director in this case is Robert Stone, whose terrific documentary Oswald’s Ghost was shown to an admiring audience in a setting that was both breathtaking and slightly bizarre.
It marked the Southwest premiere of Mr. Stone’s film, which will be shown Jan. 14 on PBS. It’s in the midst of a limited theatrical release, with openings scheduled for Nov. 30 in New York and Dec. 7 in Los Angeles. But no future dates have been set for Dallas.
That’s a shame. It may well be one of the best movies ever offered about the assassination, and it took on an eerie power being shown in a handsomely renovated theater that will forever be central to the darkest moment in Dallas history.
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested Nov. 22, 1963, in the Texas Theatre, on Jefferson Street in Oak Cliff, moments after investigators say he gunned down Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit and about an hour after he killed Mr. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza.
By the end of his movie, Mr. Stone comes to his own dramatic conclusion about who killed the president. But it’s the getting there that’s remarkable.
In an interview before the screening, he said the trigger for him was seeing that other Stone’s movie in 1992 and watching the firestorm it created.
“This in itself is an interesting story” is how he characterized his reaction to Oliver Stone’s JFK. “Why, after all these years, are we still fighting over this? What is it about the story that keeps us so passionate, so engaged?”
What he didn’t want to make was a movie putting forth yet another conspiracy theory or a debunking of all previous conspiracy theories. Rather, he longed to examine something deeper and far more psychological about the American character.
“Nobody had stepped back and told the story of the debate itself,” he says. “How did these ideas come about? Who propagated them and why were they so widely believed? And what had they done to this country? Seventy percent of Americans still believe the government was involved in the Kennedy assassination or has worked to cover it up. And that’s had a huge impact.”
In the end, a seemingly disparate chorus of voices – including the late Norman Mailer – accomplish the filmmaker’s objective.
As he says, Oswald’s Ghost is “a way of explaining the ’60s. We’re not arguing anymore about what happened in Dealey Plaza. It’s an argument about explaining what came after … and how did everything go so wrong.”