December 17, 2009 4:05 pm
A recent blog on the TCM Classic Movies site about William Friedkin's The French Connection details the rarely noticed influence that the 1960's Chicago documentary film movement, in which Kartemquin played a leading role, had on the Oscar-winning thriller's famously gritty style.
"The film’s down-and-dirty style derives from a short-lived Chicago-based documentary movement from the 1960s—now long gone and unchronicled in most documentary history books. A version of cinema verite, the visual style of this loose-knit movement included the use of hand-held camera, long takes, and direct sound, just like their well-known verite counterparts from New York—Richard Leacock, the Maysles, and others who were part of Drew Associates. And, the Chicagoans also took advantage of the new lightweight 16mm cameras and cableless sync-sound recorders. But, there was something more direct, earnest, and even anxious about Chicago’s answer to verite; theirs was a no-nonsense street style fashioned from the use of documentary as social activism.
I don’t know much about the roots of this movement, though I’ll bet my peaked interest will shortly turn into a quest to uncover every bit of information that I can. I first became aware of it through the work of Kartemquin Films, which was founded as a documentary co-op in the 1960s to make films as a way to examine and critique social issues, problems, and contradictions by focusing on the stories of real people. In 1966, Kartemquin released their first film, Home for Life, which is a powerful chronicle of two elderly people entering a home for the aged shot in the low-budget, no-frills style of other Chicago documentaries of the time. Long after most Chicago documentary filmmakers left town or moved on to other opportunities, Kartemquin remained in the Windy City, expanding its enterprise and broadening its arena to worldwide issues."
Read the rest of the excellent article here.