It was in the early 60s at the Cinematheque in Paris that I met Jean-Luc Godard and we talked about doing a film together. He would set up a town somewhere, and my partner Ricky Leacock and I would arrive and shoot whatever we found there, with no script or preparation on our part, like a newsreel. That film never happened, but a few years later Godard decided he wanted to make a film with us. PBL, forerunner of Public Television, agreed to produce it. The film was to be called 1 AM (One American Movie), and it was to be about the rising resistance to the Vietnam War and the impending revolution that Godard was convinced was about to happen in the U.S.
After shooting the film, Godard and Leacock both decided to leave town, Godard going off with Gorin to start a new leftist cinema and Leacock to teach at MIT. I was left to deliver something to Public Television or face severe contractual coercion. Thus, 1 AM became 1 PM (One Parallel Movie – or One Pennebaker Movie, as Jean Luc called it.)
Ricky had filmed pretty much what Godard wanted, but I was the extra camera that nobody noticed, and I filmed whatever looked interesting. So when I began putting the sequences together as Godard had suggested, I saw a lot of stuff I’d shot that hadn’t been planned, and I was soon making a film of my own. I doubt it was the film Godard had in mind when we started, but then, it seldom works out that way anyhow. I found what happened entertaining and filled with surprises. It’s some sort of history. I’m grateful to Jean-Luc, Ricky and everyone who showed up to see what would come of this crazy idea, and I am continually amazed that such a film would ever get made. —D.A Pennebaker
The lynchpin of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard was arguably the most influential filmmaker of the postwar era. Beginning with his groundbreaking 1959 feature debut A Bout de Souffle, Godard revolutionized the motion picture form, freeing the medium from the shackles of its long-accepted cinematic language by rewriting the rules of narrative, continuity, sound, and camera work. Later in his career, he also challenged the common means of feature production, distribution, and exhibition, all in an effort to subvert the conventions of the Hollywood formula to create a new kind of film.
Godard was born in Paris on December 3, 1930, the second of four children. After receiving his primary education in Nyon, Switzerland – during World War II, he became a naturalized Swiss citizen – he studied ethnology at the Sorbonne, but spent the vast majority of his days at the Cine-Club du Quartier Latin, where he first met fellow film fanatics Francois Truffaut and Jacques Rivette. In May… read more
One of the founding fathers of “direct cinema”, American filmmaker’s adopted name of choice for “cinema verite”, and perhaps its best known practitioner during the 1960s and early 70s, Pennebaker helped construct a style of storytelling and an attitude toward his subjects (often political figures or entertainers) that influenced a generation of nonfiction filmmakers. He is a proponent of a cinema which favors the filming reality in as unobtrusive a manner as possible, usually without narration.
This former engineer, advertising copywriter and painter began making films in the early 50s after falling under the influence of experimental filmmaker Francis Thompson. Pennebaker’s first film, “Daybreak Express” (1953), combined his documentary and experimental impulses in a five-minute portrait of the soon-to-be-demolished Third Avenue elevated subway in NYC set to Duke Ellington’s music. Pennebaker later established himself as a member of Drew Associates, which included major documentarians… read more
American filmmaker/cinematographer Richard Leacock (1921-2011) made a major contribution to the development of the American version of “cinema verite” called “Direct Cinema.” As enacted by Leacock and Robert Drew, Direct Cinema attempted to utilize the camera only as a means to objectively record events as they happened without subjecting it to pre-planned direction or much care for the resulting technical quality of the finished product. What was important was to capture the now, just as it happened without the interference of the director and the crew. Typically, Leacock and the others involved in the movie travelled to events with minimal equipment and carried hand-held cameras.
The younger brother of feature filmmaker Philip Leacock, Richard began making his first films at age 14 while living in Britain (he was born a British citizen in the Canary Islands). Three years later he moved to the States, earned a physics degree at Harvard and participated in WW II as a combat cameraman… read more