On August 1, 2019, D(onn) A(lan) Pennebaker, Penny to most, died. He was 94.
A true titan of cinema, Pennebaker leaves behind a plethora of work, almost all of it falling under the category of Direct Cinema. His purpose was to capture reality as truthfully as possible, which Pennebaker accomplished thanks to new, lightweight camera and audio recording equipment.
Thankfully, a good deal of Pennebaker’s films are currently streaming across multiple platforms. Start with Dont Look Back, his Bob Dylan concert doc — arguably one of the greatest documentaries ever made — at The Criterion Channel and Amazon Prime.
The Criterion Channel’s tribute features a slew of Pennebaker docs as well as some of his early short films, including Daybreak Express: a pretty impressive stab at a city symphony film. Also playing in the tribute is Monterey Pop, the infamous 1966 California concert where Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire before bashing it on stage. And to think the Mammas and the Poppas had to follow that.
Amazon also has Elaine Stritch At Liberty, Stritch’s one-woman show with Pennebaker once again in direct cinema mode. Same for The War Room, a look inside the Bill Clinton presidential campaign in 1992 — available via Amazon or the Criterion Channel. Both Elaine Stritch At Liberty and The War Room are notable for Pennebaker’s collaboration with director Chris Hegedus; a collaboration that remained fruitful until the duo’s final film, Unlocking the Cage currently streaming on Kanopy.