Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Daybreak Express (1953)

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This next example of cinema verite from the Cinema 16 American collection is directed by D.A. Pennebaker. While it includes the same aspects of cinema verite that O Dreamland exemplified, this film highlights a pleasant visual quality in truth rather than a depravity. In summary, the five-minute film is made up of images shot on a New York train at sunrise. It is set to a composition by Duke Ellington. The music starts slow, and because a day starts slowly, the images are slow and lingering. As the trains start to run and the New York City streets become more fast-paced, so do the music and the shooting. The colors Pennebaker captures also reflect the idea of daybreak, with cool blues alighting to warm yellows and intense oranges. Some of the visual effects made me wonder if Pennebaker accomplished this whole film on one handheld camera. The backlit silhouettes were particularly beautiful and, I’d imagine, challenging to shoot. I also thought the kaleidascope and wide-angle effects toward the end of the film must have been ground-breaking in 1953. All in all, one of my favorites so far, and a project so much more finessed than a “music video.” Find more information at PHFilms.com.

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Written by Alisa Hathaway

March 1, 2011 at 9:43 pm

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