New York Film Festival 1970
A classic behind-the-scenes look at the album recording of a Sondheim musical.
As explained in its opening card, Pennebaker was approached to film the album recording as a pilot for an intended television series, but the larger project never took off after the lead producers left NYC to head MGM in Hollywood. What remains is this compelling hour-long film, one of Pennebaker’s most enjoyable projects. The Direct Cinema master films the marathon 14-hour recording session with the COMPANY cast, plus a notable pick up shot a few days later, distilling it into a compelling exploration of artists performing under intense pressure. Recorded just after COMPANY debuted on Broadway, the cast gamely belts out their songs as the session wears on, taking direction from the cocky young Stephen Sondheim and producer Thomas Shepard. It all culminates in the dramatic final scene, the recording of the final song, Elaine Stritch’s solo “The Ladies Who Lunch,” which doesn’t go according to plan despite take after take.