* * *
Fifty years ago, the phrase “cinéma vérité” had only just started to enter common English-language usage, and it seems a safe bet that most Americans who’d heard of the fly-on-the-wall style of documentary filmmaking pioneered in the U.S. by D.A. Pennebaker and Robert Drew were more than a little bit suspicious of its underlying premise. Is it reasonable to expect people to behave unselfconsciously when you fill a room full of movie cameras aimed at them? In fact, that’s just what happens once the subjects get used to the presence of the cameras and crew: They fade into the wallpaper, and those who are being filmed soon cease to be conscious of their presence.
As for Mr. Pennebaker, who died in August, his preferred subject matter was music, and so it is appropriate that “Dont Look Back,” his critically acclaimed 1967 documentary about Bob Dylan, should have clinched his directorial reputation. But in the world of theater, Mr. Pennebaker is not merely known but legendary for “Original Cast Album: ‘Company,’” the 1971 film about the making of the original cast album of the show that established Stephen Sondheim as the most influential Broadway songwriter of the postwar era….
“Original Cast Album: ‘Company’” is a triumphant demonstration of the theory of cinéma-vérité: Everybody in Columbia’s old recording studo on East 30th Street is too busy getting the show on tape to preen or posture for Mr. Pennebaker’s cameras. They know they only have a limited amount of time at their disposal, and they all stick closely, even ruthlessly, to the business at hand….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
From Original Cast Album: Company, Donna McKechnie, Susan Browning, and Pamela Myers record “You Could Drive a Person Crazy”: