Re: [Frameworks] experimental documentary

From: Jeff Kreines (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Jul 18 2010 - 14:57:26 PDT

"It was experimental for it's time.

Leacock, Pennebaker, the Maysles Brothers and others had been making films in a very similar style for 8 years before the release of Dont Look Back -- many referred to as "Drew" films because producer Robert Drew got money from Time-Life to experiment -- it was a hotbed of US non-fiction film for a few years (as Leacock-Pennebaker was, and later MIT's Film Section).

One could say that PRIMARY, the first released Drew film, and considered by many to be the first real American direct-cinema film -- is far more groundbreaking, and very nicely shot -- it's from 1960. Ricky Leacock, Al Maysles, and Penny shot it (with some others) using very primitive sync sound gear. Chronique d'une Ete and Le Joli Mai are from the same period, and both are, to use the term in the subject line, "experimental." Other Pennebaker/Leacock films of the period, like "Jane" and "David" also fit. There are films of theirs (with Bob Drew) that are less experimental, like On The Pole and The Road to Button Bay and -- given how it was edited -- Crisis.

The point I'm making is that Pennebaker probably made or co-made 15+ films in the years between Primary and DLB. By the time of DLB his aesthetic was fully formed, IMHO, as later films show.

So to be nitpicky, I would say it's experimental to people not familiar with the genre's history, and most people probably aren't. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's pretty obscure.

I think the term "experimental documentary" is overly broad, and could cover anything from A Propos de Nice to PBS crap that has pretentions to art. But I don't think that's how the original question was framed -- it's more a matter of subject-creep. I suspect the original questioner would not consider any of these films to fit his definition of "experimental."

Jeff Kreines

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