The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller: Film Review

"Live documentary" approach makes for an affecting connection between subject, filmmaker and audience

The co-director of "The Weather Underground" celebrates a more gentle utopian, inventor Buckminster Fuller.

Director Sam Green stands on a naked stage for The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, speaking in something like an awestruck whisper as he cues up still and filmed images on the movie screen behind him. As the cult three-piece combo Yo La Tengo plays in a corner, he'll spend the next hour or so marveling at the idealism and energy of "the Leonardo DaVinci of our time," Buckminster Fuller.

The result of Green's exploration is something very different from previous docs such as Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud -- more a communion with a questing spirit than the assessment of a career, a portrait so sympathetic to its subject's desire to make the world a better place it hardly pauses to ask if Fuller's plans were quixotic. As such, the film will play better with those who already know a fair bit about this futurist and inventor, whose most famous creation was the geodesic dome, although the participation of Yo La Tengo will likely draw many who've hardly heard of him.

Green's exploration centers on the Dymaxion Chronofile, an archive in which Fuller obsessively collected every scrap of paper that crossed his desk, every videotaped interview, every diagram of a new invention. "I love this shit," Green enthuses, and -- as Fuller intended -- he uses highlights from this mountain of ephemera to reveal aspects of its maker's personality. The man was "a total egomaniac," the filmmaker admits, and his loquaciousness in everything from talk-show interviews to a "Hippie Hill" bull session in San Francisco backs that assessment up.

Yo La Tengo's instrumentals pair well with the many silent film clips here: Shots of a helicopter transporting one of Fuller's domes become an echo of La Dolce Vita's flying Christ statue; while accompanying a train ride through Fuller's 1967 World Expo building, YLT imagines the sound of a beautiful future being born.

Perhaps appropriately, given its focus on scraps of in-progress work, Love Song doesn't ask obvious questions about what the future actually held -- about the impact, or lack thereof, Fuller's work has had in the three decades since his death. But it's hard to deny the relevance one of Fuller's main themes -- of doing more with less, of using resources judiciously in order to spread them around more equitably -- has for a world in which globalization is no longer a theorist's fancy, but a fact of life.

Production Company: Kontent Films

Director: Sam Green

Producers: Sam Green, Mark Decena, Teri Heyman

Director of photography: Andy Black

Music: Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, James McNew

Editors: Sam Green, Dave Cerf, Matt Notaro

No rating, 50 minutes