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‘It is an art that cannot live by looking back': Dont Look Back, performance, and the revision of direct cinema

Beattie, Keith 2016, ‘It is an art that cannot live by looking back': Dont Look Back, performance, and the revision of direct cinema, Sydney studies in english, vol. 42, pp. 26-41.

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Title ‘It is an art that cannot live by looking back': Dont Look Back, performance, and the revision of direct cinema
Formatted title ‘Dont Look Back’ and the revision of direct cinema
Author(s) Beattie, Keith
Journal name Sydney studies in english
Volume number 42
Start page 26
End page 41
Total pages 16
Publisher University of Sydney
Place of publication Sydney, N.S.W.
Publication date 2016
ISSN 0156-5419
1835-8071
Keyword(s) documentary film
direct cinema
performance
D.A. Pennebaker
Bob Dylan
handheld camerawork
film history
Summary Alexandre Astruc, in his brief manifesto ‘The Birth of a New Avant-Grade: The Camera Stylo’, emphasized the development of the portable 16mm camera as the essential element of his formulation of the ‘camera as pen’ and the emergent individual filmmaking that he envisioned would blossom from this development. Echoing Astruc’s emphasis on the mobile camera, portable camera and sound recording equipment occupy a privileged place in histories of direct cinema, the mode of observational filmmaking deployed in the US in the late 1950s. Interestingly, a crude technological determinism functions in many such histories, one that argues, in effect, that new portable camera technology created the new form of documentary. Notably in this relation Richard Leacock, one of the founding practitioners of direct cinema and an inventor of the portable camera technology used by many direct cinema practitioners, refused to reduce the development of the form to the new equipment. While he acknowledged that the new camera technology made possible a new mobility in filming, Leacock also recognised that ‘far more was involved [in the development of direct cinema] than the technology of portable equipment.’ In this relation, as the film theorist Stella Bruzzi has astutely suggested, ‘perhaps it is the groundbreaking performances in these films and not merely the arrival of lightweight cameras that revolutionised documentary.’ This paper is concerned with the relationship of performance and direct cinema, and the ways in which the foundational premises and extant styles of direct cinema are revised within and through performances within D.A. Pennebaker’s landmark direct cinema work Dont Look Back (1967), a record of Bob Dylan’s concert tour of England in May 1965.
Language eng
Field of Research 190201 Cinema Studies
190204 Film and Television
2005 Literary Studies
Socio Economic Objective 950205 Visual Communication
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2016, University of Sydney
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30089894

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: School of Communication and Creative Arts
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