September 7, 2008

Robert Drew's great documentary "Primary" -- about JFK and Hubert Humphrey in the Wisconsin Primary -- free, tonight, at Cinematheque.

New students, old residents, you should know about Cinematheque. Drop by tonight at Vilas Hall at 7:30 for this fine 60 minute film.

And make note of the rest of the films in the "Vote Cinema: American Politics on Film" series. There are various different series and special events this fall, including "Deviants, Delinquients, and Do-Gooders: Hollywood Social Problem Films of the 1950s."

Here's the whole fall calendar.

Cinematheque is one of the coolest things about UW-Madison. And again: It is free.

ADDED: Here is an interview with Albert Maysles (the cinematographer) about the part of the film where we see Jackie Kennedy's gloved, fidgeting hands:

And here's a long clip from [another] film that gives background on Richard Nixon. I love the charming retro "Stick with Dick" sign. And Richard Nixon, turning on the charm for Nikita Krushchev, just hilarious. Lots more too.

ADDED: Sorry, I misread the label on the second video clip, which popped up in YouTube. It has a completely different documentary style, but some great historical clips. If I remember "Primary" correctly -- I've seen it but have loaned out my DVD -- it's entirely about Kennedy and Humphrey in Wisconsin. Here's some background on the style of "Primary":
[C]inema verite -- choosing moments where action might occur instead of creating it -- ... was the brainchild of Robert Drew, an editor at Life magazine. He believed the magazine enjoyed its success because it brought into the home pictures of action in the midst of happening -- four soldiers struggling to plant the flag at Iwo Jima, for instance -- and he wanted to extend that concept to documentaries. "I thought all we had to do was put a Life photographer who valued candid photography behind a motion picture camera, and we could make a new kind of film." But thanks to an eight-man crew that had to stop and set heavy equipment on tripods, action eluded capture.

Then Mr. Drew started to experiment with lightweight cameras and sound recorders. In 1959, under the banner of Drew Associates, he put together a film crew, all of whom went on to write their names on the pages of documentary history: Albert Maysles, Terence Filgate (a film maker well known in his native Canada), Richard Leacock ("Monterey Pop") and D. A. Pennebaker ("Don't Look Back," "The War Room").

The film makers set out in the dark: they were making documentaries with no directors, no scripts, no sets, no lights, little or no narration and no interviews. To be at the right place at the right moment was everything. They considered themselves neutral observers who merely recorded ongoing events and had, as much as possible, no point of view. Their first important work was "Primary," which tracked Senators John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey through the cold 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Presidential primarily...

Their approach, says Mr. Filgate, offered an alternative to the Edward R. Murrow style of documentaries. "It was as if we were butterfly hunting. We knew there were butterflies in the woods, but we didn't know what kind, and we didn't know how we were going to catch them; whereas in the journalistic documentary, a reporter says, 'On my left, hidden in the bushes, are thousands of butterflies.' And then the camera cuts away to the bushes. Drew, with 'Primary,' broke that mold."


George said...

Sarah Palin has Jackie's eyes.

And when, exactly, did women stop wearing white gloves?

Yesterday I received in the mail a copy of the very literary "Escapade" magazine (April 1961).

It contains an essay by satirist Paul Krassner who is "trying to learn what Jack Kennedy is really like" because he's been hearing so many "awful rumors" about Jack. He tries to find the truth by reading Hollywood gossip magazines. Aside from learning that people are more interested in Jackie than Jack, he quotes one gossip rag as reporting, "[Jackie] did not know her husband was suffering a sharp and continuous pain in is lower back."

Then he jokes that this was a "Top Secret" that some "damned fool" leaked.

If only he knew the truth—Kennedy's pain was real and severe and caused policy problems in a big way.

No wonder Jackie's fingers were so fidgety.

rhhardin said...

The fellow in charge of the Film Club at a large work location sent out the Fall Schedule one year, listing as a joke exclusively WWII submarine films.

Madison has no sense of humor.

reader_iam said...

Wow, some of those would be worth driving to Madison for (not that I ever object to visiting Madison; I like it and welcome whatever excuse).

I miss living in a real university town.

vbspurs said...

Sarah Palin has Jackie's eyes.

I know, right! I was thinking about that the other day, too.

And whilst we're at it, her perfectly square face.


blake said...

Jack Nicholson?

John Lynch said...

Man, if we'd just elected Hubert Humphrey, think of all the trouble we would have avoided.

Thanks, radicals, for everything from Nixon to Carter. Thanks a lot.

I expect partisan Republicans to vote their ticket, but who pushed the middle into voting for Nixon? Gah.