Film Review: “I Am Secretly an Important Man: The Jesse Bernstein Documentary”
I was first introduced to the poetry of Steven Jesse Bernstein back in 1993, through my then-roommate, who owned Bernstein’s Prison CD. It captivated me with its beat-era sound and the deadpan delivery of Bernstein’s voice, a nasal, raspy buzzsaw that had me in hysterics. While none of this is meant to be funny — Bernstein committed suicide by cutting his own throat in 1991 — there was a wry irony in his stories/verses/patter. By accident, I stumbled upon this documentary that tells a straight narrative of Bernstein’s life and work. From his childhood in Los Angeles to being institutionalized as a teen, which sets the wheels in motion for his instabilities, his drug and alcohol use and his inspirations for his art, Steven Jesse Bernstein was an original. Stories are shared by his ex-girlfriends, his wife and his two sons. Most importantly, there is enough footage of the man doing some of his best-known pieces (“Face,” “No No Man,” etc.). A stellar piece of film and a worthwhile watch.