Both Jonathan Lee’s “Paul Goodman Changed My Life,” a biography of the now obscure New York Intellectual, and Pony Brzezinski and Lina Chaplin’s “Writing as I Should,” a documentary about the late Israeli author Batya Gur, make you want to read more of their subjects’ work, though for opposite reasons. The two films screened November 3 as part of the Boston Jewish Film Festival, which was the initial grounds for comparing them. But watching these two very different takes on two very different writers made me wish that there was a dialogue between them — that “Paul Goodman Changed My Life” had some of the revealing nearness of “Writing as I Should,” and that “Writing As I Should” had more of an outside perspective on the meaning of Gur’s work.
“Paul Goodman Changed My Life” tries and fails spectacularly at capturing every nuance of Goodman’s multifaceted career. The film introduces us to Goodman the poet, Goodman the novelist, Goodman the anarchist, Goodman the social theorist, Goodman the teacher, Goodman the charming guest on William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line,” Goodman the bisexual, Goodman the not-always-affectionate father, and Goodman the jilted elder statesman of the New Left.