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D.A. Pennebaker Dies

Legendary documentarian dead at 94

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by Lee Paul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: August, 2019
1960s Dylan in DA's lensglare is mesmerising

D.A. Pennebaker is dead and it's no great surprise given his age I guess. And given how much he packed into a lifetime.

He's probably best known for the Bob Dylan tour film, Don't Look Back (1967). It's brilliant and it's one of the few rocknroll films worth watching again and again. The 1960s Dylan in DA's lensglare is mesmerising, so often like a man ahead of a time where everyone else, mainly, the journalists he meets, the musicians he meets, the fans he doesn't even meet halfway, are like laggardly desperately not wholly formed folks, leaden of foot and thought and barely managing to travel in his wake.

And of course DA Pennebaker caught the "Judas" shout from the audience member in... Manchester, I think it was, precipitating a truly ferocious version of Like A Rolling Stone. Whenever I hear it, it always sounds like some of the most exciting minutes in the history of pop music...

Looking at it now, it must have been boring being Dylan in the sixties, he must have been looking forward to some sort of future cognitive decline. It took a while, he didn't really get there until he recorded and released Saved in 1980.

Don't Look Back is the only rocknroll film I've ever bothered owning. It wasn't Pennebaker's only great one. There's The War Room, about the Clinton campaign, which made a star of James Carville, and probably shaped how campaigns were made before social media manipulation became everything. See too, his historical document, Primary, Kennedy vs Humphrey. God they were so old when they were so young. Now so many primary candidates are so old when they are actually old and maybe should think about stopping and doing something else.

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Lee Paul

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