Regarding Susan Sontag

Synopsis: REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG is an intimate and nuanced investigation into the life of one of the most influential and provocative thinkers of the 20th century. Passionate and gracefully outspoken throughout her career, Susan Sontag became one of the most important literary, political and feminist icons of her generation. The documentary explores Sontag's life through archival materials, accounts from friends, family, colleagues, and lovers, as well as her own words, as read by Patricia Clarkson. From her early infatuation with books to her first experience in a gay bar; from her early marriage to her last lover, REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG is a fascinating look at a towering cultural critic and writer whose works on photography, war, illness, and terrorism still resonate today.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Nancy D. Kates
Production: HBO Documentary
  2 wins & 3 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
100 min

I love being alive.

I wake up every morning very

grateful that I'm alive.

It's more than enjoyment.

I'm, uh...

I'm very happy to be alive.

I began writing when I was

6 or 7 or 8, stories and poems

and plays.

It was...yes, it was like

enlisting in an army of saints

or something of that sort--it

sounds very foolish--but I

didn't feel that I was

expressing myself.

I felt that I was, well,

taking part in a

noble activity.

My mother was very much someone

who was interested in everything.

Intellectual and cultural and

aesthetic and sensual experience.

When I turned 40, I was in

China. When I turned 50,

I was in France.

When I turned 60, I was

in Sarajevo and the bombs

were falling.

Being 70 sounds very awesome.

Despite my two bouts

of cancer, I feel fine.

I feel as if a lot of

things are still ahead.

WOMAN: of the country's

most controversial writers

and social critics...

She was

the relentless campaigner

for human rights

and against war...

...the most intelligent

woman in America...

...critic, activist,

playwright, essayist...

she wrote 17 books

and won major awards,

including the National

Book Award...

Susan Sontag

was 71 years old.


For the last hundred years

in our society,

the most interesting writers

have mostly been critics

of the society.

The writer very

often has taken some kind

of adversary position.

I like that

adversary position.

I like the position of

being able to express

dissenting opinions.

Shortly after September

11th, Susan Sontag became one

of the first prominent

Americans to publicly state

the attack was carried out in

response to US foreign policy.


Sontag writes in the

current issue of the

"New Yorker" magazine...

This sort of

build-up of moralistic

words to describe

this horrendous atrocity was

not helping us to understand

and reach an intelligent

response, political

and military, which I'm

absolutely in favor of.

I'm not a pacifist.

There's so many

opinions around.

And I guess I'm

just a very straight

First Amendment--

strict First Amendment


I want to defend

Ann Coulter.

Well, you're also a very

offensive writer.

You are part of the "Blame

America First" crowd.

You said that we were

to blame for our

foreign policy--

I never said

anything of the kind.

Let me--let me just--

I'm just as patriotic

and against the terrorists

as you are.

Well, your version

of patriotism is

blame America,

blame America.

Oh, dear.

We have a long

tradition of debate.

I'm interested in people

having a historical

understanding of

where we are so that

we can better defend

ourselves and stop

international terrorism.


And let's get into

your position...


It is difficult

for the citizens of America,

having never seen their country

devastated by war

to really understand

and appreciate the full

horrors of war.

The battle for peace

will never be won

by calling anyone whom we

don't like a Communist.

If we do this, we shall

someday realize that,

in the effort to preserve

our democratic way of life,

we have thrown away its

noblest feature--the right

of every person to

express his own opinion.

Everyone who knew us knew

I was totally in love with her.

We never dated but we

were always together.

She gave me the first

academic lecture of my life.

She sat me down on her bed

and ran through the argument

of the "Critique

of Pure Reason,"

Kant's "Critique

of Pure Reason."

She must have been 15.


In Los Angeles, I tracked

down a real bookstore,

the first of my

bookstore-besotted life:

The Pickwick on

Hollywood Boulevard,

where I went every few days

after school, buying when I

could, stealing when I dared.

I had to acquire them,

see them in rows along the

wall of my tiny bedroom.

My household deities,

my spaceships.

In '48, I graduated

from high school.

Sue had another semester

of high school to do...

and in the second semester,

she went up to Berkeley.

[Bell tolls]

And the very first day,

I was standing on line

registering for a class,

and I heard somebody

ahead of me say, "Proust."

And I thought, "Oh, my God.

It's pronounced Proost."

I thought it was

"Prowst." Ha ha!

And then I thought,

"I'm home.

"I've reached a place

where somebody else has read

the books that I have read."

It was freedom.

It was like escape.

[Trolley bell clangs]


Go In Drag.

A Drag Party.





Act Swishy.

I'm Swished tonight.

This is a list of slang that

Susan learned when I took her

to San Francisco to

learn about the world

of gay people.

[Bells chiming]

This is '48, and I'm going

to Berkeley and I'm working

at the Campus Text Book

Exchange, which was staffed

entirely by gay boys and me.

And then Susan came in the

door one day to buy a book.

She was absolutely

overwhelmingly gorgeous.

She walked in, and he said

to me, "Go get her." Ha ha!

So I went.

[Horns honking]


First we went to the 299, then

to 12 Adler where we met Bruce

and went with him to

a homosexual bar.

The singer was a very tall

and beautiful blonde

in a strapless evening gown.

[Wolf whistling]

I wondered about her

remarkably powerful voice.

Harriet had to tell me

she was a man.

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Nancy D. Kates

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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