What’s Up Documentary?

From the awards at Cannes to the documentaries of the fifties.

THIS YEAR’S MOVIE-CROWD CRACK has been, of course, “Make a movie of Watergate? Not without the Marx Brothers.” When life with its absurdities starts imitating fantasy-fiction, let alone art, the fictioneers are up against some pretty stiff competition, as the film Let The Good Times Roll demonstrates.

What documentaries of our crises become for newer generations was demonstrated recently when an eleventh grade history class climaxed their study of the McCarthy era with the 1964 Emile de Antonio-Daniel Talbot Point of Order! and found this brilliant 97-minute culling of the 1954 Army McCarthy hearing kinescopes more thrilling, more marked by drama and tantalizing characterizations than all the fictional political thrillers of their teenage lives.

For life, in the audio-visual technological advances and saturations of the past twenty years, is converted into instant-document and remains, recorded live, for the near-instant generations. And with it all comes not only instant-history but, even more interesting, instant-nostalgia. No, No Nanette? The Big Band Era? Bogey et al? That, my dear, is ancient history.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to yesterday—and come up with Chubby Checker and I Was a Teen-age Werewolf and Elvis getting his sideburns clipped for Army service and the high school kids putting on a do’s-and-don’ts fashion show to demonstrate that clinging sweaters and dungarees were to be eschewed in favor of proper dresses and neat suits, and Jersey City banning rock’n’roll concerts for the sake of public morality, let alone safety.

It’s all there for you to writhe over, wallow in and twist to in Let the Good Times Roll, a splendidly frenetic high-style documentary put together by a coalition of television and film men, conceived by Gerald I. Isenberg who produced the film with 16 working cameramen, three directors and a corps of editors and technicians, all under the aegis of a group of companies, chief among them Metromedia Producers Corp and Cinema Associates. And stars? Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, Bo Diddley, The Shirelles, The

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