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September 8 - September 14

The Word and the Image: The Films of Peter Whitehead

An unsung hero of British cinema, Peter Whitehead’s films represent an extraordinary insight into counterculture movements of the late 1960s in both London and New York.  He filmed Allen Ginsberg at the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Shakepeare Company’s protest against the Vietnam War, the Presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy and student protests at Columbia University. This first ever American retrospective of Whitehead’s film work presents an unrivaled document of an era of great social change.

Program notes from the Maysles Institute.

September 8 (Friday) 7 pm
September 13 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Wholly Communion

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1965, video, b/w, 33 min.

The documentary that effectively launched Whitehead’s career, Wholly Communion captures the historic event at the Royal Albert Hall on 11 June 1965 where an audience of 7,000 witnessed the first meeting of American and English Beat poets. Among the performers featured are Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso and Adrian Mitchell.

Tonite Let’s Make Love in London

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1967, video, color, 70 min.

One of the few film-makers trusted within the perfumed gardens of the 60s rock illuminati, Whitehead was allowed unparalleled access into the centre of the pop circle to capture the moment for his kaleidoscopic film. With contributions from the likes of Michael Caine, Julie Christie, Lee Marvin and David Hockney, Tonite presents a dazzling and intimate record from the very core of the “in-crowd.” With music by Pink Floyd, among many others. “Not a documentary in any ordinary sense,” said Variety, “but rather an impressionistic view of the ‘land of mod’ as seen by a sympathetic participant.”

Benefit of the Doubt

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1967, video, b/w and color, 65 min.

Peter Brook directs the Royal Shakespeare Company in US, a semi-improvised work protesting England’s unseen and unacknowledged role in the Vietnam War. Containing sequences at public meetings and interviews with the actors (including Glenda Jackson) and Brook himself, the film is an agit-prop time capsule that has gone virtually unseen in this country since its premiere at the New York Film Festival in 1967. Wrote Variety of the film, “…for Americans interested in current theatrical trends it could be a must, since it’s their only current opportunity to see one of the most adventuresome and controversial stage productions of the last few years.”

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September 9 (Saturday) 7 pm
September 12 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Peter Whitehead: Pop Films

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1966-69, video, b/w and color, 70 min.

A precursor to the music video, Whitehead’s work with The Dubliners, The Small Faces and many others was the very inception of the artful, experimental and daring pop promo. This program includes the films Whitehead made with The Jimi Hendrix Experience (“Hey Joe”), Nico (“I’m Not Sayin”), and some rare surprises from the director’s extensive archive.

The Beach Boys in London

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1967, video, color, 30 min.

Rare footage of the brothers Wilson and company culled from a European tour, Whitehead’s concert film captures this seminal band in the wake of their creative masterpiece, Pet Sounds.

Pink Floyd: London 1966-67

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1967, video, color, 30 min.

Filmed with their original lineup including the recently deceased Syd Barrett, rock gods Pink Floyd perform some of their lesser known early tracks in Whitehead’s documentary which also features appearances by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Led Zeppelin: Live at Royal Albert Hall

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1970, video, color, 102 min.

Recorded at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Whitehead’s film is an exemplary example of what a concert film should be. No titles or credits, just one hundred minutes of the British band at their peak, including a thirteen-minute drum solo by John Bonham. Shot three months after the release of their second LP, the film highlights Whitehead’s expert on-the-hoof camerawork and inspired editing.

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September 11 (Monday) 6:30 pm
September 14 (Thursday) 8:45 pm

The Fall

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1969, video, color, 120 min.

Considered by Whitehead to be his most important film, The Fall is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, an extremely personal statement on violence, revolution and the turbulence within late sixties America. Filmed entirely in and around New York between October 1967 and June 1968, it features Robert Kennedy, The Bread and Puppet Theater, Paul Auster (fresh-faced as a Columbia student), Tom Hayden, Mark Rudd, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Arthur Miller, Robert Lowell, Robert Rauschenberg and The Deconstructivists. Richard Roud, co-director of the New York Film Festival wrote of the film, “…an attempt to come to grips with today, both in terms of its content as well as of its form.”

Nothing To Do With Me

Directed by Anthony Sterne
UK 1968, video, b/w, 30 min.

Several months after returning from the United States, where he had just completed shooting his film The Fall, Whitehead philosophizes to the camera in this remarkable autobiographical document.

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September 11 (Monday) 9:15 pm
September 14 (Thursday) 6:30 pm

The Perception of Life

Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK 1964, video, color, 30 min.

An extraordinarily beautiful and simple science film about the history of biological ideas which shows how they expanded as technology improved. Filmed in museums and in the Cambridge University labs where Whitehead had been a student, The Perception of Life was filmed through microscopes used by scientists from the 17th to the 20th century, including the electron microscope in the MRC unit where Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA.


Directed by Peter Whitehead
UK/France 1973, video, color, 90 min.

What began as a documentary about French sculptress Niki de St Phalle finished up as a fantasy about a woman's attempts to exorcise the influence of her sexually domineering father. Alternately gothic and surreal, de Saint Phalle and Mia Martin are the two protagonists in a kind of ‘Let’s Get Daddy’ charade, acting out their fantasies on the poor unfortunate patriarch, as played by Rainer Diez.

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