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The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates [Blu-ray]
(Robert Drew, 1960, 1963, 1964) NOTE: Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker, Kenneth Stilson for Adventures on the New Frontier)
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 49,846,707,661 bytes
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: April 26th, 2016
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Drew Associates
Video: Criterion Collection Spine #808
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary on Primary:
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English (SDH), none
• Faces of November (12:10)
• Alternate, twenty-six-minute cut of Primary,
edited by filmmaker Richard Leacock
Primary (Leacock Cut)
Adventures on the New Frontier
Crisis (aka 'Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment')
Primary Description: Seeking to invigorate the American documentary format, which he felt was rote and uninspired, Robert Drew brought the style and vibrancy he had fostered as a Life magazine correspondent to filmmaking in the late fifties. He did this by assembling an amazing team—including such eventual nonfiction luminaries as Richard Leacock, D. A. Pennebaker, and Albert Maysles—that would transform documentary cinema. In 1960, the group was granted direct access to John F. Kennedy, filming him on the campaign trail and eventually in the Oval Office. This resulted in three films of remarkable, behind-closed-doors intimacy—Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, and Crisis—and, following the president’s assassination, the poetic short Faces of November. Collected here are all four of these titles, early exemplars of the movement known as Direct Cinema and featuring the greatest close-up footage we have of this American icon.
The Films (Primary):
Primary is a 1960 Direct Cinema documentary film about the 1960
Wisconsin primary election between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey
for the United States Democratic Party nomination for President of the
Adventures on the New Frontier: The camera follows newly-elected President John F. Kennedy around the White House as he conducts his daily business, meeting with various people in the Oval Office to discuss matters of government. Flashbacks to the 1960 campaign and footage from his 1961 Inauguration show how Kennedy rose to take on "the free world's most awesome responsibility". To supplement the President's discussions on policy, the camera shows viewers the economic hardships of a West Virginia mining town and takes them along on a diplomatic trip to Ethiopia.
Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment is a 1963 cinéma vérité documentary film directed by Robert Drew. The film centers on the University of Alabama's "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" integration crisis of June 1963. Drew and the other filmmakers, such as D. A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock, were given access to all the key areas, including United States President John F. Kennedy's Oval Office and the homes of United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Alabama Governor George Wallace. The film first aired on ABC television four months after the incident. In 2011, it was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
During a two-day period before and after the University of Alabama integration crisis, the film uses five camera crews to follow President John F. Kennedy, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, Alabama governor George Wallace, deputy attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach and the students Vivian Malone and James Hood. As Wallace has promised to personally block the two black students from enrolling in the university, the JFK administration discusses the best way to react to it, without rousing the crowd or making Wallace a martyr for the segregationist cause.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Criterion new Blu-ray The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates is cited as a 'new 2K digital restorations of all four films' (Primary - 1960, Adventures on the New Frontier - 1961, Crisis - 1963 and Faces of November - 1964). Shot on 16mm - we get a similarly rich textured appearance as found on Pennebaker's Don't Look Back, Cassavetes Faces, Christopher Nolan's Following, Maysles brother's Gimme Shelter etc. There are a few light damage marks but the black and white contrast is a strong point. There is no depth or noise and this representation seems to adhere to the authenticity of the original production roots. This Blu-ray exports a beautiful grain-soaked feel adding to its vérité sensibilities. I was very impressed with the appearance.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Criterion transfer the audio with alinear PCM for all 4 films - it sounds clear and audible adhering as closely as possible to the original source utilizing the uncompressed monaural soundtrack. There is some background music - (I Wish I Was in) Dixie's Land and Battle Hymn of the Republic to name a couple. It sounds solid with a bit of tightness, a pinch of perceived depth and, obviously, flat. Dialogue is realistically scattered and there are optional English subtitles on the region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.
As stated we get Robert Drew's 1964, 12-minute film, Faces of November - made for ABC News, we see the preparations for the funeral with transitions into rainy night and the tears of a grieving nation. It is very touching. There is an alternate, twenty-six-minute cut of Primary (aka Leacock version), edited by filmmaker Richard Leacock and its quality is similar to that of the other films and seems to focus a shade more on Hubert Humphrey than the original Primary. I found it interesting although there is repeated footage found in Adventures on the New Frontier. We get an interesting, vintage - 1961, audio commentary on the original Primary (not the Leacock version as advertised on the Criterion webpage), featuring Leacock and filmmakers Robert Drew and D. A. Pennebaker, recorded in conversation with film critic Gideon Bachmann. It discusses the movement and its implications and how it developed. Robert Drew in His Own Words, is a new, 34-minute documentary featuring archival interview footage. Few film companies can boast the legacy of Drew Associates - some of the biggest names in documentary history began there. This piece, produced by Criterion weaves together interviews with Drew to present a portrait of a man who conceived a new way of creating nonfiction cinema, and then marshaled an amazing array of talent to realize his vision. There is a new, 26-minute, conversation between Pennebaker and Jill Drew, Robert Drew’s daughter-in-law and the general manager of Drew Associates. They discuss the early days of Direct Cinema, working for Robert Drew, and the joys and challenges of filming the president of the United States. We are also privy to 46-minutes of Outtakes from Crisis, along with a discussion by historian Andrew Cohen, author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours that Made History. We also get a new, 26-minute, conversation about Crisis featuring former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and Sharon Malone, Holder’s wife and the sister of Vivian Malone, one of the students featured in Crisis and a new, 27-minute, interview with Richard Reeves, author of President Kennedy: Profile of Power. Criterion include 26-minutes of footage from a 1998 event at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, featuring Drew, Pennebaker, Leacock, and filmmaker Albert Maysles and the package has liner notes with an essay by documentary film curator and writer Thomas Powers.
March 29th, 2016
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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