Tonight I ventured on over to Berkeley to watch Tyson, the new documentary about Iron Mike by James Toback.
It is excellent, and I came away with a much deeper appreciation of just how insightful Tyson is. Sure...he was ferocious and intimidating in the ring, and--oh my God--he bit Evander Holyfield's ear twice in the same fight! And he also was convicted of rape, a charge he strenuously denies to this day. And he used drugs and lost lots of money.
All conceded. But Tyson is also very perceptive about his flaws and those of authors; extremely tender about his relationship with his first manager, Cus D'Amato, who saved him from a life of crime; and genuinely amazed that he lived to be 40 years old (he's now 42). And his life remains a mixture of remarkable highs and terrible lows: within the past few weeks his young daughter died and he remarried for the 3rd time.
As Tyson says at the end, "What happened in the past is history, what comes in the future is a mystery." This sounds much better when he says it than when I write it, and bespeaks a radical sense of fatalism and powerlessness at the heart of someone who used to be one of the strongest people in the world. That's what makes the film great, as A.O. Scott's review attests: the sense that we really get inside the heart and mind of someone who has been a caricature for years.
- As a native of Columbus, Ohio, I was happy to remind myself thatJames "Buster" Douglas --who defeated Tyson in an enormous upset in 1990--is a Columbus native. That was huge news for weeks when I was in seventh grade, but there is no doubt that Tyson had a bad night and was the better fighter.
- The early parts of the film focused on his upbringing in Brooklyn and upstate New York, which made me miss the Northeast. But most of it takes place in a nice house on the West Coast, as Tyson spills his soul to Toback. Looks like I'll be staying here a while myself.
- Everyone should watch David Carr's interview of Tyson at Sundance, which is available from A.O. Scott's aforementioned review.