D.A. Pennebaker - Rotten Tomatoes

D.A. Pennebaker



An innovator in the Direct Cinema style of documentary filmmaking, also known as cinéma vérité, filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker got his start in the 1950s, making experimental films. He went on to make his name as one of the premier documentarians of the latter half of the 20th century, focusing his lens on subjects as diverse as Norman Mailer, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Bill Clinton.

A native of Evanston, IL, Pennebaker served a stint in the Navy, worked as an engineer, and founded Electronics Engineering (the makers of the first computerized airline reservation system) before beginning his film career. Following his directorial debut, a 1953 film called Daybreak Express that featured a score by Duke Ellington, Pennebaker joined the Filmmakers' Co-op in 1959. Working with other young filmmakers, he began making Direct Cinema documentaries, starting with his 1960 film Primary. A behind-the-scenes look at the Wisconsin Democratic Primary between Presidential candidates Kennedy and Humphrey, the documentary was the first to take a candid look at the everyday goings-on of a Presidential race. Years later, Pennebaker would use this approach to observe the various antics behind the 1992 Presidential candidacy, resulting in the critically lauded The War Room.

Following Primary, the director turned his attentions to the theater, with Jane (Fonda), a 1962 documentary that employed the behind-the-scenes tactics of his previous film to document Fonda's opening of her first role on Broadway. Broadway was a subject to which Pennebaker would repeatedly return over the years, but his next major effort, 1967's Don't Look Back, was an acclaimed account of Bob Dylan's 1965 concert tour of England. The black-and-white documentary gave Dylan fans the first look at their idol since his 1966 motorcycle accident and also devoted plenty of screen time to traveling companions Joan Baez and Alan Price. The same year, Pennebaker collaborated with author Norman Mailer on the first of many projects they would do together, Beyond the Law. Acting as cinematographer for the film -- a rollicking tale of gambling, corruption, and biker bums -- Pennebaker again worked with Mailer in the same capacity on the improvisational Wild 90, also released that year.

1967 proved to be an extraordinarily busy year for the filmmaker; in addition to his previously mentioned projects, he found time to direct two other documentaries, Jimi Hendrix: Live in Monterey, 1967 and Otis Redding: Live in Monterey, 1967. The following year, he returned to the festival with Monterey Pop, and then continued documenting some of the era's most influential musicians with 1969's John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band: Live Peace in Toronto, 1969. After another collaboration with Mailer, 1970's Maidstone, Pennebaker returned to the city of Toronto the next year, with Sweet Toronto, a documentary about the 1969 rock festival that featured performers such as John Lennon, David Bowie, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Bowie was the subject of the director's next effort, David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, a filmed account of the performer's 1973 farewell concert that did not see release for another ten years.

Following a period of relative inactivity, Pennebaker returned in 1980 with Town Bloody Hall, a documentary about an infamous 1971 roundtable discussion among Mailer, Germaine Greer, Diana Trilling, and assorted feminists that disintegrated into verbal warfare. His next directorial project, the long-delayed Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1983), put him back into more glittery territory with a filmed account of Bowie's 1973 concert at London's Hammersmith Odeon Theatre. It was another seven years before Pennebaker made another documentary; in 1990, he directed Depeche Mode: 101. Two years later, the director attracted widespread acclaim and a 1993 Best Documentary Feature Oscar nomination for The War Room, a behind-the-scenes look

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
79% Unlocking the Cage
  • Director
2016
93% Janis: Little Girl Blue
  • Actor
2015
No Score Yet Jane
  • Director
2014
No Score Yet Ricky on Leacock
  • D.A. Pennebaker
2012
73% Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie
  • Executive Producer
2010
86% Kings of Pastry
  • Director
2010
100% 65 Revisited
  • Director
2007
60% Al Franken: God Spoke
  • Executive Producer
2006
No Score Yet Before the Nickelodeon: The Early Cinema of Edwin S. Porter
  • Actor
2006
No Score Yet David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars - Rock Revie
  • Director
2006
61% Only the Strong Survive
  • Director
2003
No Score Yet See What Happens
  • Actor
2003
No Score Yet Elaine Stritch at Liberty
  • Director
2002
97% Down from the Mountain
  • Director
2001
92% Startup.com
  • Producer
2001
100% Town Bloody Hall
  • Director
  • Producer
2001
No Score Yet Alice Cooper - The Alice Cooper Story
  • Director
2001
No Score Yet Searching for Jimi Hendrix
  • Director
1999
No Score Yet Cinema Verite: Defining the Moment
  • Actor
1999
No Score Yet Depeche Mode - The Videos 86-98
  • Director
1998
88% Moon Over Broadway
  • Director
1997
No Score Yet Woodstock Diaries: The Lost Performances
  • Director
1994
95% The War Room
  • Director
  • Producer
1993
No Score Yet Branford Marsalis: The Music Tells You
  • Director
1992
No Score Yet Jerry Lee Lewis: The Story of Rock 'n' Roll
  • Director
1991
No Score Yet Jimi Plays Monterey
  • Director
1989
No Score Yet Depeche Mode 101
  • Director
1989
No Score Yet John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band: Sweet Toronto
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1988
No Score Yet Shake!: Otis at Monterey
  • Director
1987
No Score Yet Dance Black America
  • Director
1985
No Score Yet Rockaby
  • Director
1982
72% Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • Director
1973
No Score Yet Company
  • Director
1971
No Score Yet One P.M.
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
  • Producer
1969
No Score Yet Little Richard - Live At The Toronto Peace Festival 1969
  • Director
1969
100% Monterey Pop
  • Director
1968
100% Dont Look Back
  • Director
1967
No Score Yet Otis Redding: Shake
  • Director
1967
No Score Yet Jimi Plays Monterey
  • Director
1967
No Score Yet Bob Dylan World Tours 1966-1974 - Through the Camera of Barry Feinstein
  • Director
1966
No Score Yet Lambert, Hendricks & Co.
  • Director
1964
No Score Yet Jane
  • Director
1962
No Score Yet Primary
  • Director
1960
No Score Yet Baby
  • Producer
  • Director
1954
No Score Yet Daybreak Express
  • Director
1953

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT
No Score Yet POV
1988
  • Director

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