“Val”: a sensitive documentary on the fall of a Hollywood star, a certain Val Kilmer

There is a Val Kilmer mystery. Why this actor present in the credits of blockbusters like Top Gun, Heat Where Tombstone suddenly disappeared from the screens? What happened to him ? This question is the starting point of Val, a feature-length documentary produced by Amazon, presented in a special screening under the Cannes Première label at the Cannes Film Festival last July and available for a few days on Amazon Prime Video.

The reason for this disappearance? In 2015, Val Kilmer learned he had throat cancer. He then undergoes a tracheostomy which interferes with his breathing and voice. A handicap that is difficult to overcome for an actor. In the film, her son, Jack Kilmer, literally becomes her spokesperson. He takes care of the voiceover and tells in first person the career of his father, now 61 years old. This great production tip also reflects the very strong bond between Val Kilmer and his two children, Jack and Mercedes, co-producers of the film. A love visible on the many family films presented in the documentary. And archives, Val Kilmer has a lot of them.

Because the actor, native of Los Angeles, is crazy about cinema. He filmed a large part of his life himself: behind the scenes, preparing for his roles, but also, as a child, short films with his brothers. He also immortalizes his family life with his wife, the English actress Joanne Whalley and their children.

Super 8, VHS, mini DV… The personal archives of Val Kilmer make all the interest of this documentary. For example, we discover unpublished behind-the-scenes images of Top Gun. This shows that the rivalry between Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer had gone beyond the scope of the scenario and continued behind the scenes. Another rare video: images of Val Kilmer’s first Broadway show in 1983. The very young actor then shared his dressing room with two comrades with promising careers: Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon.

Val looks back on another aspect of Val Kilmer’s career: his bad choices and the feeling of waste when reading his filmography. Gifted actor, youngest student to integrate the prestigious Julliard school in New York, Val Kilmer has created over the years a bad reputation in Hollywood: that of an unmanageable actor. The documentary allows Val Kilmer to deliver his point of view. That of an uncompromising actor, who dreamed of playing Hamlet on stage and whose ambitions are gradually crushed by Hollywood studios.

There is no lack of examples to support his thesis. When he was chosen to play Batman in 1995, the shoot turned into a nightmare. The superhero costume is so uncomfortable that the performer can barely move. Result: his performance as an actor in Batman forever is mocked. The film works at the box office but the reviews are murderous. Val rehabilitates a fallen star, physically diminished but still so pugnacious. A very beautiful portrait of an artist, nevertheless served by a chronological narration a little too classic.

The documentary film poster "Val" by Leo Scott and Ting Poo.  (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)

Kind : Documentary
Director : Leo Scott and Ting Poo
Country : United States
Duration : 1h49
Exit : August 6, 2021 on Amazon Prime Video
Distributer : Amazon

Synopsis : For more than 40 years, Val Kilmer has documented his own life and profession through film and video, accumulating thousands of hours of footage.

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