Rachel Mason’s (The Lives of Hamilton Fish) documentary of her family’s infamous bookstore is a wonderful journey of discovery. What begins as a purported history and examination of the store and its place in the culture, shifts to become a tale of family. Much like Stories We Tell, Mason was feeling her way along a story she hadn’t defined, but which slowly revealed itself as she did her interviews and sifted her footage.
In some ways that approach makes this film a little oddly structured. You can feel the focus shift as it goes along, but it leaves the first quarter of the story feeling a little uneven until the real tale starts to become obvious. But, while getting there, Mason’s overview of the politics, period, and people is still worthwhile and interesting. And, to be honest, it plays in and against the story she does end up telling.
The story of Circus of Books is filled with humor, heart, and revelation…and one I do highly recommend.