|Index||3 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I say there's a spoiler alert, but actually there is little to add here beyond the existing plot description. Probably more famous because of its relative invisibility as a cultural artifact (and of course it should not be), this is what it is, an edited collection of student documentary takes on two Vietnam protests with a denouement in a small apartment where the respective student filmmakers attempt to process and decompress the events they have witnessed. The film poses the question time and again, is real political revolution in America possible? (and in the context of the time it was made --is revolution imminent?) The questions at the end are pointedly Marxist (in a culturally responsive organic rather than didactic textual manner) asking what it takes to inspire an American revolution from the working class up. Alternating black and white and color footage is interesting in terms of variety, but of course this is most worthwhile as a document of the times, a film product of youthful student idealism and increasingly cynical public ideology. Of note, Harvey Keitel has some interesting heated exchanges with Jay Cocks as Scorsese pointedly avoids too much camera presence. Also, Oliver Stone was a student filmmaker listed on the credits, yet I am unsure as to which segment is his. This was around the time Stone made "Last Year in Vietnam" as a returning vet (found on the "Oliver Stone's America" DVD as an extra). The production credits appropriately acknowledge the 'New York Cinetracts Collective.' Indeed, this would make for a great double feature alongside Godard/Resnais/Marker's "Cinetracts" 1968 film (and throw in Pennebaker/Leacock's "Two American Audiences" with Godard visiting NYU graduate students in 1968 and Stone's film for a real treat). It's all enough to make one pine for more politically active times, even if the politics were often products of students, drugs, and fashion.
This is an amazing historical document, exploring the explosive response to Nixon's announcement of his incursion into Cambodia. Climaxing in an enormous March On Washington, the film records the confrontation of Wall Street working man with the rebellious students and anti-war personalities like Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Bill Kunstler and so on... This film was made less than a year after the Woodstock festival, and a lot of the film-makers involved with the concert film were on hand for this, much darker, movie. The film ends in a remarkable conversation among some of the participants, in a Washington hotel, after the march has largely failed but before everyone decided to throw over the revolutionary goals. Very clearly these people are talking about "revolution" -- they imagined themselves to be in the midst of one, just as had those dead at Kent State, and as had, perhaps, their killers. This is a forgotten moment in American History, and this film lays it out quite strikingly. Criterion, where are you?
Street Scenes is one of only a very small handful of documentaries of the late 60s/early 70s which accurately capture the tensions, the passions, as the student antiwar movement of the era begins to fragment and cleave itself into two distinct camps: those who believed the movement must continue to be grounded in nonviolent protest tactics, and those who were starting to believe that the violence of the dominant culture when suppressing dissent must be met by the movement itself with a similar response. The film is both time capsule and anthropological document. It is an important record of an integral aspect of an era, and also a record of the intellectual arguments on both sides of the emerging movement divide then occurring. It is also, just solely at the level of its achievements as a film, an important transition point in documentary style between the documentaries of the early to mid-60s, and the later, more narrative-driven documentaries that emerged in the 70s.
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