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Faces of November (1964)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Robert Drew made several documentaries with President Kennedy but this 13-minute short would turns out to be made after the assassination. The entire film is basically just facial shots of people on the day that Kennedy was laid to rest. We see people paying their respects as well as simply standing out on the streets. There are so many ways that you could have filmed this but I thought it was pretty interesting that Drew would just shoot the facial expressions of people. You'd think this might get boring but it's certainly not and it's also rather amazing how much you can feel just by looking at people. It should go without saying but there are many tears flowing but what really caught my attention was how many people seemed to still be in shocked. You can just look at people's faces and tell that there's a certain level of fear of probably not knowing what's going to happen next. The cinematography is extremely good throughout the picture. There's really no sound outside the music score but this here adds to the sadness that's going on.
Robert Drew, who had directed the document PRIMARY during the 1960
election, was asked to make a film about President Kennedy's funeral
and given carte blanche. He begins and ends with standard symbols of
death and mourning: gunfire and bare trees in the November sleet. It is
four minutes before the first human is seen. He is leading a riderless
black horse and the other props of the cortège.
After that we see faces of people trying to hold in their grief. Even the military honor guard loses their self-control. The president's widow keeps herself under control as she walks to the coffin and kneels before it, but there is a terrifying moment of grief as she rises.
Drew used old, almost antique, commonplace techniques in showing grief. If you look at FUNERAL OF PRESIDENT MCKINLEY from 1901, you can see the same techniques at work. They work here, too, because that is who we are.
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