D.A. Pennebaker, winner of an Honorary Oscar last year, is the restless, experimental documentarian who recorded many of the most iconic images of the ’60s, following Bob Dylan round England on his infamous first electric tour and filming the brilliant “Subterrranean Homesick Blues” cue-card sequence for his film “Don’t Look Back.” He also recorded for posterity the Monterey Pop Festival, David Bowie‘s “Ziggy Stardust” tour and (unexpectedly, but masterfully) the machinations behind Bill Clinton‘s 1992 election in “The War Room,” one of the finest pieces of political filmmaking ever.
Although it was the 1960s that got Pennebaker’s career going, he was a generation older than the counterculture movement (and he’s still alive today, at 88): his earliest, and most experimental, work appeared during the 1950s, and has an almost 30s-ish fascination with jazz music and urban life. All that is evident in his very first piece of film ever, the experimental 1953 short “Daybreak Express,” which you can see via our friends over at The Seventh Art. Set to a rattling Duke Ellington jazz piece, it’s a rapid, rowdy montage of footage of 50s New York: specifically, of the Third Avenue elevated subway stop, which was demolished soon after, leaving behind Pennebaker’s impressionistic record of it. Check it out.