Archive for the ‘Films’ Category
Special sneak preview Thursday, September 25 at 8:00 with filmmakers and cast in person!
DAYS AND NIGHTS is writer/director Christian Camargo’s directorial debut, inspired by Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull and set in rural New England in the 1980s. The film centers around Elizabeth (Allison Janney), a movie star, who brings her paramour Peter to her lakeside estate to visit her family on Memorial Day weekend. The household includes her ailing brother (William Hurt), her artist son (Ben Whishaw), his ethereal muse (Juliet Rylance), the family doctor (Jean Reno) and the estate’s custodian (Russell Means), the careless caretaker (Michael Nyqvist) and his wife (Cherry Jones), their temperamental daughter (Katie Holmes) and her long suffering ornithologist husband (Mark Rylance) — the keeper of the sacred land where a bald eagle is trying to raise its young. During the weekend a disastrous turn of events leads the family from dysfunction to heartbreak and, ultimately, salvation.
Q&A with Chris Hegedus & DA Pennebaker!
Roger Friedman is an entertainment journalist and music fan with a particular love for R&B and soul music from the mid-’50s to the pre-disco era of the early ’70s. Owing in part to segregated booking policies and simple lack of proper archiving, Friedman discovered there is little or no surviving film footage or videotape of many of the greatest artists of the era performing on-stage.
However, a large number of the performers in question were still active and performing on a regular basis, and with the help of documentary filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, Friedman set out to capture some of his favorites on film while they were still in good form.
ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE features knockout performances from such R&B legends as Wilson Pickett, Jerry Butler, the Chi-Lights, Carla Thomas, Mary Wilson, Ann Peebles, and many more, as well as interviews in which the artists discuss the ups and downs of their music careers. ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE also includes performance footage of Memphis R&B pioneer Rufus Thomas, who passed on at the age of 84, less than two months before the film was screened at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
Q&A with Chris Hegedus & DA Pennebaker! Election night special
“‘The War Room’ was the name for Bill Clinton’s campaign center in Little Rock, Ark. Though the press wasn’t usually permitted inside this small warren of chaos, filmmakers D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, managed to secure partial access and shot nearly 35 hours of footage there. At the center of The War Room are the two men who guided Clinton’s ship from the beginning: James Carville, the fiery, charismatic, expletive-spewing Cajun who manages the campaign with a mixture of Southern charm and unrelenting passion; and George Stephanopoulos, the brilliant, handsome Rhodes Scholar who, as communications director, calmly but surely mobilizes his staff to take the presidency.
“Hegedus and Pennebaker’s camera follow these two masterminds as they organize and execute strategies for such events as the Democratic National Convention, the debates with George Bush and H. Ross Perot, and the final, nail-biting days leading up to the election itself, when it seemed less and less certain whom the voters would choose. The War Room is a compelling and enlightening adventure story about two remarkable men, and about the monumental effort, determination and chutzpah that is required to conduct and win a political campaign in the modern age.
“Is any stone left unturned in a modern Presidential campaign? When every last whistle-stop and handshake is thoroughly documented, can there be anything more for a filmmaker to find? When D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus set out to chronicle the Clinton campaign, they were taking on a seemingly redundant task. And yet THE WAR ROOM, their glimpse of maneuvers by Clinton strategists, finds new facets of the story and manages to coax cliffhanging suspense out of a fait accompli.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Q&A with Chris Hegedus & DA Pennebaker!
“Like viewing the remains of the Titanic. A harrowing and fascinating exploration of a flop, and I’m surprised I wasn’t in it. Instead of being nominated, Carol Burnett should be canonized.” – Nathan Lane
Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker bring their fly-on-the-wall camera backstage to take a fresh, eye-opening, no-holds-barred look at the big bang adventure of producing a Broadway hit. The Broadway show in question is “Moon Over Buffalo,” starring Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco, a comedy about a low-rent Lunt and Fontaine, hell-bent upon recharging their careers.
Cited by The New York Times as “the best documentary of the year,” the film features hilarious turns by its leading actors—and even funnier behind-the-scenes sequences, as everyone mounting this high-risk Broadway production goes into nail-biting overdrive.
The play’s director, Tom Moore, and co-producers Rocco Landesman and Elizabeth Williams, help playwright Ken Ludwig through endless rewrites and finally to opening night, which Ludwig dubs “a bar mitzvah from hell.” Only those few who have been lucky enough to glimpse backstage through the curtain have seen Broadway quite like this.
Q&A with Chris Hegedus & DA Pennebaker!
“When we rolled across the country with the band—Martin, David, Andy and Alan—in their shiny green jet, with bus-loads of friends and accomplices and two 40-foot semis full of equipment, they were like a shipload of pirates looking for spoils. They’d pick out a city where their records sold well, arrive there at dawn, set up their stuff, and when they had an audience half-crazy with expectation, stage manager Andy Franks would announce, ‘Start the intro tape!’ and the magic would begin. For two or three hours fifty thousand fans would sing and dance as they did for no one else. When it was over, and the fans had gone home, the band and crew would pack up and roll out, a few hundred thousand dollars richer, and by daylight only those who had seen the concert and bought a $20 t-shirt would know what had happened. Their parents would say, ‘Depeche Who?’
“Still in their twenties, the band’s youth belied years of hard-earned experience and what we heard that night was a tight band performing a unique sound—their own brand of pop music– not more variations of ‘60s or ‘70s rock and roll. Throw away the drums and the guitars for the most part. Playing synthesizers with haunting songs written by Martin and performed with David’s incredible energy and signature alto voice, Depeche Mode arrived to take America, and they did. The fans weren’t the typical rock band enthusiasts either—a case of beer and an afternoon of Grateful Dead songs. With rapt devotion, dressed mostly in black, with marvelous flourishes such as garters holding up thigh-high stockings, the audience almost seemed like they were conjured up especially for this band alone, and the rest of the year they stayed home studying Druid ceremonial rites. Jane Spears, the band’s lighting designer who hailed from New Zealand, created an aurora borealis on stage for every song, playing the lights on a keyboard just as if they were music. It was a big show, a fantastic show. So when this young band decided to risk all and try to fill the Rose Bowl for their final 101st concert we knew we had a band after our own hearts, and we had a film.
“With son Frazer Pennebaker back in New York as our producer and David Dawkins as a collaborator we set out on tour. We filmed most concerts just the three of us. Three weeks into the filming, the band’s producers suggested a dance contest where a busload of fans would win a trip across the country and meet up with Depeche Mode at the final Rose Bowl concert. New York radio station WDRE and DJ Malibu Sue hosted the event which drew thousands of fans. Somehow eight fantastic kids were chosen and we put two of our favorite filmmakers, Jeff Kreines and Joel DeMott, on the bus with them. Some people say that the bus kids were the first of the MTV Real Life series. For all of us it was an incredible journey. We always tell people that the time we spent on the road with Depeche Mode was our favorite film adventure.” – DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus
Q&A with DA Pennebaker! In loving memory of Elaine Stritch (1925-2014)
COMPANY: ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM (1970, 60 min)
When COMPANY was first shown at the 1970 New York Film Festival, it caused considerable stir. A police riot squad had to be summoned to quell the outraged turnaways unable to get into the theater. The film documented the grueling 18 1/2 hour recording session for Stephen Sondheim’s new musical “Company,” which had recently opened on Broadway. It included Elaine Stritch’s show-stopping “Ladies Who Lunch” and became the sensation of the festival even though it was only 52 minutes long and intended for television. It seemed for an instant that it could be released successfully in theaters. Columbia Pictures was even interested. But the legal problems were considerable, and eventually COMPANY had its television run in the U.S. and in Great Britain, and then as usually happens, disappeared from view.
But not quite. Over the next thirty years, Pennebaker received a steady stream of requests to see the film, either from people who had seen it or people who had heard about it. Midnight phone calls from Los Angeles, and Berlin, and the weight of fans who considered the music to be among Sondheim’s best, finally persuaded Pennebaker to see if it couldn’t be resurrected. After years of legal unraveling by Frazer Pennebaker and with the help of all participants and their lawyers and agents, the film lives again.
This film is exceptionally poignant in a year when we had to say goodbye to the inimitable Elaine Stritch.
LAMBERT & CO.accompanied by short LAMBERT & CO. (1964, 15 min)
“Dave Lambert had been a hero of mine ever since I left Chicago for New York in the forties, long before he’d begun the famous Lambert, Hendricks and Ross trio, when he was an arranger for Gene Krupa. While we were building a studio on 45th Street for fledgling-film company, Leacock Pennebaker, Bob Van Dyke, our audio genius, introduced me to Dave, and got him to help us finish it. Dave, it turned out, was a first rate carpenter. When it came up that he had an audition at RCA for a new group to record songs he had just written, we went along with him and filmed the session. RCA decided not to go for it, and wiped the tapes, so we stuck our unedited film up on a shelf and left it there.
“Several months later, while helping someone fix a flat on the Merritt Parkway, Dave was hit by a car and killed. A few weeks later, Art D’Lugoff from the Village Gate called and said he’d heard we had a film of Dave and could he show it at the wake. Nick Proferes and I spent that night editing and got him a print the next day. A few days later a reporter from German TV who’d seen it, came around and asked if he could show the film in Germany since Lambert was so well known in Europe. We gave him our print and forgot about it. Then, letters started coming asking where to get the record. But there wasn’t any record, nor would there ever be one. All there was was this fifteen-minute film of a few incomplete rehearsals of songs that otherwise didn’t exist. It hit me that this was really what film should be doing, what I should be doing … recording people and music as a kind of popular history that might otherwise not exist. It was only a few weeks later that Albert Grossman walked into our office and asked if I was interested in making a film about his client, Bob Dylan.” – DA Pennebaker
Q&A with special guest TBA!
65 REVISITED (1967, 60 min)
“The great relief of D. A. Pennebaker’s “65 Revisited” — which pulls together never-released footage shot for his documentary “Don’t Look Back” — is that this time you can hear the songs in their entirety. Because Mr. Pennebaker wanted “Don’t Look Back” to be about Bob Dylan, not his 1965 British concert tour, he made the somewhat maddening decision to cut down the songs in that first film to tantalizing bits and pieces. The problem of course being that the songs were as much a part of this youthquaking sensation as his pipe-cleaner-skinny legs, his fuzzy ’fro, bobbing head, sly smile, riffs, rants, puns and playful, otherworldly genius.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
SHAKE – OTIS AT MONTEREYSHAKE – OTIS AT MONTEREY (1986, 30 min)
Otis Redding’s complete, electrifying performance at the historic Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The Monterey concert reflects Redding at the peak of his career, only months before a fatal plane crash took his life.
“Well-shot vintage soul performances are as scarce as chitlins on Wall Street, and though these 20,000 white protobohemians weren’t exactly Redding’s hippest audience, he was definitely out to prove something to ‘the love crowd.’ Clad in a memorable forest-green suit, the most country of the great soul men trundled his oversized body all over the stage in a condensed set of surefire material. The glaring spotlight effects that spoiled Redding’s segment of the original film are mostly gone; except for the girls-of-Monterey montage accompanying ‘Try a Little Tenderness,’ Pennebaker honors the visual facts, most notably Redding’s big-hearted face. In the best verite tradition, Pennebaker is drawn to interesting faces–even his tribute to the ladies doesn’t settle for pretty.” – Robert Christgau, Village Voice
Q&A with DA Pennebaker!
JANE (1962, 60 min)
JANE, a rarely seen classic of early cinema verite, follows Jane Fonda preparing for her Broadway starring role in “The Fun Couple.” The action behind the scenes becomes more lively than what’s on stage. Filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Hope Ryden (working for the legendary doc company Drew Associates) capture the theatrical team on out of town previews, leading up to the big New York premiere. On the play’s opening night, cameraman Ricky Leacock observes the famed critic Walter Kerr as he types out his make or break review; while Pennebaker’s camera covers Fonda awaiting the verdict. It’s one of the great films about show business.
DAYBREAK EXPRESS DAYBREAK EXPRESS (1953, 6 min)
“I wanted to make a film about this filthy, noisy train and it’s packed-in passengers that would look beautiful, like John Sloan’s New York City paintings, and I wanted it to go with my Duke Ellington record “Daybreak Express.”
“I didn’t know much about film editing, or in fact about shooting, so I bought a couple of rolls of Kodachrome at the drugstore, and figured that since the record was about three minutes long, by shooting carefully I could fit the whole thing onto one roll of film. Of course that didn’t work since I couldn’t start and stop my hand-wound camera that easily so I ended up shooting both rolls and even a few more before I was through. It took about three days to film and then sat in a closet for several years until I figured out how to edit it and make a projection print.
“I took it to the Paris Theater to see if they would run it. By pure chance it ended up with the Alec Guinness comedy The Horse’s Mouth, which ran there for nearly a year. Since I had a large collection of jazz records, I figured I’d found a way to break into the film business with music films, and it did get me started, but I was never able to make another film like DAYBREAK.” -D.A. Pennebaker
BABYBABY (1954, 6 min)
“This is a first film shot in 1954. It began as one sort of film and ended up something quite different. I had bought a camera, a Kodak Cine-Special. It was used, but so shiny in its velvet lined case it seemed brand new, with lenses, and a tripod. It cost $300 and although it was hand-wound, it was such a beauty that I fell in love with it on the spot. The next day I got some war surplus film of uncertain origin on Canal Street and took Stacy, my two-year-old, to the Central Park Zoo.
“I had contrived a scenario in which she ran mindlessly by cages of various animals paying them no heed while they, subject to edited inserts, would appear as excited Stacy observers. I had not fully mastered the tripod and suddenly in the middle of a jerky pan from a drinking fountain the entire tripod is sent flying and never reappears. In fact it has yet to be replaced. Stacy, bored with animals sets out to explore some noises she hears and ends up discovering a merry-go-round. When I finally catch up and help get her up on one of those huge horses for the first time, I see the look on her face, and I know. There’s the film. I should be watching not directing. The unplanned seems to me more interesting always, or at least more possible than the planned. That’s really the film I’ve been trying to make ever since.” -DA Pennebaker
Q&A with Chris Hegedus & DA Pennebaker!
“Frequently funny, it’s a pleasure to watch. Mailer backpedals and obfuscates like a madman, but what finally makes Town Bloody Hall—so compelling and unsettling—is the impression that such serious, spirited debate is a thing of the past.” – Mark Holcomb, The Village Voice
On the evening of April 30, 1971, a standing room only audience of local literati and feminists packed New York City’s Town Hall to watch Norman Mailer, who had just written “The Prisoner of Sex,” grapple with a panel of passionate feminists. The subject was Women’s Liberation, an issue on which Mailer seemed like the devil’s own advocate.
There to test him was a fearsome panel of feminist representatives, among them journalist and lesbian spokeswoman Jill Johnston; legendary literary critic Diana Trilling; president of The National Organization of Women (NOW), Jacqueline Ceballos; and possibly his toughest match, the glamorous and razor-tongued author of The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer.
The event, produced by Shirley Broughton and her ongoing Theater For Ideas, turned into true theater for the celebrity-stuffed audience, who vigorously offered opinions and roared their approval and disdain throughout the raucous affair. It remained the most stimulating and entertaining action to date in the continuing comedy/drama of the war between the sexes and is reverently referred to by writers on the subject.