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Remembering Richard Leacock, Clips, Louise Brooks Interview

Thompson on Hollywood By L.M. Kit Carson | Thompson on Hollywood June 10, 2011 at 12:00PM

L.M. Kit Carson remembers documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock, who died March 23 at age 89. (Video interview and film clips below).Ricky Leacock means a lot of good to a lot of film-people. Many showed up starting at 9:30 AM June 5 at Lincoln Center’s nearby Walter Reade Theater at the unique Leacock Memorial. People filled the place – and stood up in a loose order – to break their memories back to how Leacock changed them.
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Thompson on Hollywood

L.M. Kit Carson remembers documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock, who died March 23 at age 89. (Video interview and film clips below).


Ricky Leacock means a lot of good to a lot of film-people. Many showed up starting at 9:30 AM June 5 at Lincoln Center’s nearby Walter Reade Theater at the unique Leacock Memorial. People filled the place – and stood up in a loose order – to break their memories back to how Leacock changed them.

To remember…

Leacock. Who raises the question: “What does a camera see?” His answer – camera sees everything: what you show it – and at the same time, what you don’t show it – this is how he played out the foundation of cinema-verite.

Leacock. Someone who looks for the meaning of people. Searches and studies their faces – y’know? And someone – as docu-partner D.A. Pennebaker noted – who…”Made everything an adventure, even just going for Lunch.” And someone – as docu-partner Robert Drew noted – who… “Worked decent.” – recalling that when they were shooting the inside-politics of Primary, Drew had gotten an arrangement with the Kennedy Team to shoot inside Kennedy’s hotel-suite on the final hours of the local Vote-Night. But Leacock said no – and only agreed to stand in the hallway shooting through the open doorway to the suite: shooting Kennedy walking back-and-forth thinking, determined and vulnerable as the district-by-district vote-counts were broadcasting on the suite-TV. Drew: “Leacock said that doing any closer shooting would be what he called ‘morally intrusive’.”

Leacock. Who taught by doing it – with the camera he did find out – the real story. And say more: he taught that the docu-filmmaker has a moral responsibility for what he finds by shooting. Put it this way – one day in the screening room at Drew Associates (where I worked pre-college as assistant-assistant editor synching up 16mm rushes) – we were watching new footage from an African docu-shoot. And Al Maysles was shooting around inside a primitive African passenger-train car. And at the other end of the passenger-car – a woman begins nakedly nursing her baby. And Al turns his camera to the nursing woman – and he’s slowly slowly zooming in closer-and-closer to her – then Al’s camera wobbles; then hesitates; then stops; then slowly starts zooming back away from the nursing woman. And suddenly Leacock’s voice booms out in the dark room: “That’s right, Al! Y’can’t get too close, can you?!”

Leacock. Every camera position – was a moral position – for him. He shot and worked from his smart-heart. (No way No stunt not-exactly-re-al-i-ty-TV.)

For two last Sunday hours: there was Remembering Leacock – his nephews even sang a folksy Leacock-song. And an M.I.T. colleague (where Leacock started the Film School) revealed what he thought was Leacock’s secret motto – which he found in Leacock’s handwriting on the back of a photo of Leacock’s children: “Make Haste Slowly."

Afterward many friends clustered together to talk more Leacock. Like nobody wanted to stop – remembering Leacock. More than hard to forget.

Maybe makes you remember a good part of yourself. Yes- that’s good not to forget. Especially maybe in the critical-journo-now.

An interview with Leacock:

Part One of his interview with Louise Brooks:

Part One of D.A. Pennebaker's classic 1968 concert doc Monterey Pop; Leacock was on of six cinenatographers:

This article is related to: Directors, Genres, Obit, Independents, Documentaries


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.