I can’t pretend to be an expert on the late documentary maker, D.A. PENNEBAKER. Honestly I have seen only a handful of his films, maybe not surprisingly the more music-centric ones, although I did see The War Room(1993) at my local art house. And I did vote for its political subject matter–incumbent Presidential challenger Bill Clinton—twice but that is another story.
Scanning his filmography at IMDb and knowing a little of his background I was surprised to see familiar names. Jimi Hendrix. The Monterey Pop Festival. “Ziggy Stardust.” And of course Bob Dylan. But Depeche Mode?!? Needless to say I was shocked. A synth pop band of my youth. Kudos to him.
Here is a visual playlist of my favorite D.A. Pennebaker clips and videos that are available on YouTube.
BOB DYLAN, DON’T LOOK BACK(1967)
One of the greatest behind-the-scenes music documentaries of all time, a warts-and-all chronicle of Dylan’s1965 English tour. Even if it still makes Dylan look like an ungrateful jerk. And that’s from a Dylan fanatic!
A Hank Williams cover that’s luminescent but way too short:
Re imagine the gender dynamics of A Star is Born and you have Joan Baez and Dylan in the early 1960s. He was a nobody when they first met and she was the queen of the folkies. He became her boyfriend and she introduced him to her audience. And then his career became meteoric, eclipsing hers almost overnight. By the time of this filming she was his ex-paramour but the opening act for his English tour. Today Baez has a reputation as a prim folkie scold, a humorless, bitter nostalgia act incensed that she’s still being asked questions about her relationship with Bob Dylan. But here on onscreen she’s a hoot, a good sport and surprisingly very sexy. Very sexy. She’s like a real life Olive Oyl(and I mean that in a very good way)! Here are some examples:
DAVID BOWIE, ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS(1973)
The film trailer:
The title song performed live at the London Hammersmith Odeon on July 3, 1973:
Unfortunately a very good interview conducted by Greil Marcus, the singular cultural critic, has recently been taken down since Pennebaker’s death. And so have the Jimi Hendrix clips. The Internet is always resilient, so this may be corrected in the future. But here is Pennebaker in 2017 on Australian television reflecting upon his career, which does feature some of the iconic Hendrix footage he shot in 1967:
Finally, last but not least, Depeche Mode! I know I’m being immature and unprofessional, but it makes me giddy to learn that Pennebaker–and his wife and frequent artistic partner Chris Hegedus, who is almost always never mentioned as the latter–filmed the only “DM” I really care about. I had no idea of the connection at the time all those decades ago. There is something about this premise which strikes me as entertainingly trasnsgressive.
May he rest in peace.