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Paul Goodman Changed My Life revisits an era of sharp minds and big ideas

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In this heady documentary, TV footage of left-wing social critic Paul Goodman being interviewed by conservative host William F. Buckley Jr. in 1966 makes one realize how low public discourse in America has sunk since then: despite the men's political differences, their freewheeling discussion, touching on topics from education to pornography, is playful instead of rancorous. Best known for the book Growing Up Absurd, Goodman was hard to classify: a married father of three who was also openly bisexual, a cofounder of Gestalt therapy who was also an urban planner, and a champion of the counterculture until he decided the younger generation had squandered their gains. Producer-director Jonathan Lee manages to pull all these elements together; as Garrison Keillor reads aloud a Goodman verse about wild lavender, one realizes the unifying thread to Goodman was his poet's soul—inquisitive, elastic, and exuberantly defiant.

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