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Robert Drew USA, 1960
The phrase “the best and the brightest”, referring to the advisory staff of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was coined by the journalist David Halberstam, writing about the policy blunders that led the US into the Vietnam War. Today the association of the phrase is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but "the best and the brightest could honestly be applied to the crew that Robert Drew assembled under the aegis of Drew Associates to make [Primary].
June 03, 2016
For a breathtaking, now-famous shot at a rally in Milwaukee, Maysles followed Kennedy with a camera fitted with a wide-angle lens, holding it up high as the candidate passed through an enthusiastic crowd and onto the stage. When Jackie spoke to the delighted audience, Maysles filmed her white-gloved fingers nervously fluttering behind her dark dress. The Drew team’s goal of creating a sense of “being there” was beautifully achieved in these moments.
May 10, 2016
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Primary is a work of laborious construction and precision, with the recurring campaign anthem “High Hopes” routinely working its way between diegetic and non-diegetic sound tracks.
April 28, 2016
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When I rewatched Primary for the first time since university, where ours was a battered VHS copy, I noticed that the immediacy of the Criterion restoration adds untold layers to Drew’s filmmaking and rather than being a relic of the past, it feels shockingly immediate. The legacy of Drew and his associates can be found every night on the evening news.
April 27, 2016
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The team devised a set of revolutionary principles: No interviews. Tell the story through action, not narration. Don’t interfere with what’s happening, just observe. In Primary, the cameras follow the candidates as they meet voters on the street, catnap in cars, and confer with aides in private rooms. In an iconic shot, Maysles’s camera trails Kennedy through hundreds of supporters in a hall in heavily Polish Catholic Milwaukee, and the crowd breaks into his campaign song, "High Hopes.
April 26, 2016
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Frankly, the footage isn’t all that interesting, except in a basic historical sense. Drew’s new lightweight camera setup made it very difficult to record synchronous sound, so the film’s pictures and voices rarely match; the soundtrack just provides a general sense of the atmosphere… Primary’s significance lies in its primacy: It’s the first documentary that can truly be considered a fly-on-the-wall portrait, largely unmediated as it was filmed.
April 23, 2016
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Primary" is the key modern American documentary; it demonstrates both the spontaneous intimacy that agile and intrepid cinematographers and sound recordists can capture by means of lightweight equipment—and, even more important, the shift in consciousness that results.
November 22, 2013
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