Cinema Verite And Direct Cinema By Carla Fletcher
What is it? Direct cinema: - Was developed in the 1960s by the Maysles brothers, DA Pennebaker and Robert Drew. - It emerged from a desire to compare common opinion with reality. - They wanted to challenge other modes of documentary through using new film language. - They argued that reality of events in documentaries failed as other modes manipulated the audience.
Maysles Brothers • Albert and David Maysles were a documentary filmmaking team whose “Direct Cinema" works include Salesman (1968), Gimme Shelter (1970) and Grey Gardens (1976). Their 1964 film on The Beatles forms the backbone of the DVD, The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit. • David Maysles, the younger brother, was born on January 10, 1931, in Boston and died on January 3, 1987, in New York. • Albert Maysles was born on November 26, 1926, in Boston. Albert graduated in 1949 with a BA from Syracuse University and later earned a masters degree at Boston University. Albert has continued to make films on his own since his brother's death. • Jean-Luc Godard once called Albert Maysles "the best American cameraman". In 2005 Maysles was given a lifetime achievement award at the Czech film festival AFO (Academia Film Olomouc). He is working on his own autobiographical documentary. • In 2005 he founded the Maysles Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides training and apprenticeships to underprivileged individuals.
What is it? Cinema Verite: - is a style of, documentary filmmaking combining naturalistic techniques with stylized cinematic devices of editing and camerawork, staged set-ups, and the use of the camera to provoke subjects. It is also known for taking a provocative stance toward its topics. - Often interchanged with Direct Cinema, even though there are obvious differences. - First used by French ethnologistandfilmmaker, Jean Rouch. - His aim was to explore the reaction between the camera and the subject, not to deny the camera’s existence.
Jean Rouch He is considered to be one of the founders of the cinéma vérité in France, sharing the aesthetics of the direct cinema in the US pionered by Richard Leacock,D.A. Pennebaker and Albert and David Maysles. Rouch's practice as a filmmaker for over sixty years in Africa, was characterized by the idea of shared anthropology. Influenced by his discovery of surealism in his early twenties, many of his films blur the line between fiction and documentary, creating a new style of ethnofiction. He was also hailed by the French New Wave as one of theirs. His seminal film Me a Black (Moi un Noir) pionered the technique of jump cut popularized by Jean-Luc Godard. Godard said of Rouch in the Cahiers du Cinéma (Notebooks on Cinema) n°94 April 1959 "In charge of research for the Musée de l'Homme (French, "Museum of Man") Is there a better definition for a filmmaker?". Along his career, Rouch was no stranger to controversy. He would often repeat "Glory to he who brings dispute".
- According to documentary historian Erik Barnouw, both direct cinema and cinema verité had a distinct democratizing effect by putting real people in front of the camera and revealing aspects of life never before captured on film.
Examples: Direct cinema: - Warrendale, 1966 - Allan King: producer/director Considered by some to be one of the best pieces of Direct Cinema ever made, Warrendale is a documentary about the treatment of several mentally ill children at the Warrendale Treatment Centre. The film and the treatment centre caused a great deal of uproar about the invasion of privacy and the treatment of the children. It is very good example of Direct Cinema. It films very private moments and demands a great deal of the audience.
… • Les Raquetteurs - Michel Brault, GIlles Groulx, 1958. • - Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment –Robert Drew, 1963 • - The Chair – Robert Drew, 1963 • - Tread – Richard Leacock 1972 • - Chiefs –Richard Leacock, 1968 • - Gimme Shelter- The Maysles Brothers, 1970 • - Meet Marlon Brando - The Maysles Brothers, 1966
Examples: Cinema verite: • "The War Room" (1993) is a great example of the documentary film tenchnique-cinema verite."The War Room" is a behind-the-scenes look at the politics of then Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. It followed everything from the primaries to the presidential campaign. - Some famous French examples of cinema verite are “Chronicle of a Summer” (1961) by Jean Rouch and “Le Joli Mai” (1962) by Chris Marker. A famous French film director who was influenced by cinema verite was Jean-Luc Godard. His first feature film “Breathless” (1960) was shot without a script. He improvised the film as he went along, sometimes writing dialogue and rehearsing actors on the spot just before he would “roll cameras for a take.”
… • Some find it useful to distinguish Direct Cinema from Cinéma Vérité. It must first be said that Cinéma Vérité has many troubling resemblance with Direct cinema. The style of camera work (hand-held) is the same. There is a similar feeling for the viewer that real life is unfolding before his eyes. There is also a mutual concern with social and ethic questions. And both Cinema Verité and Direct Cinema rely on the power of editing to give shape, structure and meaning to the material recorded. It's not uncommon for relative shooting to finished film ratios to be 40:1 or even as much as 100:1 (for this reason many see the editors of documentaries as co-authors). Hand-held camera is a film and video technique in which a camera is literally held in the camera-operators hands--as opposed to being placed on a tripod. ...
Why was direct cinema so revolutionary? – 1958 + Before 1958: • No handheld camera was used as the camera was too heavy. • Slow film stock • Was impossible to have steady shots • More crew was necessary • No ‘real’ sound • Had to re-stage events for the camera • Camera noise was a problem
… After 1958: • Smaller microphones • Lighter shots • More lenses • Faster film stocks • Non- intrusive filming • Real sound Could finally revolutionise because it could finally capture real events as and when they happened.
Facts • Techniques of direct cinema were also frequently used in early feminist cinema. A whole studio known as "Studio D" was dedicated to women issues at the NFB in Canada. • To create direct cinema one need portable cameras, allowing the hand held camera movements that will be its visual trade mark. The first cameras of that type were German cameras, designed for ethnographic cinematography. It is generally recognized that the company Arriflex was the first to commercialize such cameras, that were bettered for arial photography during the WWII. In itself, the existence of these cameras will not trigger the birth of direct cinema.
Facts 2 • Objective truthfulness: The idea of cinema as a ontologically objective space exists since its very birth. Mechanical objectivity is seen as warranting its truthfulness. The kino-pravda (litteraly "Cinema Truth") practice of Dziga Vertov, that one can trace back to the 1920's, gave an articulated voice to this notion, where one can also see the influence of futurism. It is only with this in mind that one can understand today how before the 60's, and the advent of Direct cinema, the concepts of propaganda, film education and documentary very so loosely defined in the public. Cinema in its ontological objectivity was seen by many viewers as reality captured, and a mean of universal education. One only needs to look today at a documentary of the 50's to grasp the level of understanding that viewers of that day had of manipulation, mise-en-scene and the such, in films shot on "documentary sets". One can then also better understand what is happening with direct cinema, grasp the importance it has in the perspective of the popular evolution of ideas about reality and the media.