Faces of November
It is a film without a definite narrative and a film without dialogue, yet their absence does not diminish its power. Faces of November begins with a shot of a bare tree, starkly black against a pale grey sky; an undeniable metaphor for death. Drew then cuts to fallen leaves on a wet sidewalk and pans up to reveal the front of the White House; the flag at half-staff for the fallen Commander-in-Chief. The rotunda of the Capitol Building shows the covered catafalque that held President Lincoln's coffin nearly one hundred years before, and upon which Kennedy's coffin would soon lie, at the request of the First Lady. Day transitions into rainy night; the tears of a grieving nation.
The following day, we see the preparations for the funeral - made evident by the passing of the empty horse-drawn caisson that will soon carry the President's body through the streets. The funeral begins and the crowds watch, grim-faced. It is here that we see the "faces of November" - the veiled woman crossing herself, a close-up of an African-American solider blinking back tears as he and his fellow servicemen march. It is a study in grief.
During the service, actor Peter Lawford stands next to Bobby Kennedy, tenderly stroking the hair of a little girl, whose face is buried in his stomach. The First Lady speaks to her daughter and then we see what everyone is looking at - the President's flag-draped coffin. Fifty years later, despite the fact that it is in black-and-white and lacks dialogue or commentary, it is difficult not to be moved by Faces of November . Drew and his team managed to take the emotions of a time that many of us have only read about in history books, and make them very real.
The power of this film was not lost on the judges of the Venice Film Festival; they made Faces of November the first film to win prizes in the theatrical short film (The San Giorgio Statuette) and television (The Plaque Lion St. Mark) categories.
By Lorraine LoBianco
SOURCES: http://www.drewassociates.net/Main/synopsislong.html The Internet Movie Database Saunders, David Documentary O'Connell, P.J. Robert Drew and the Development of Cinema Verite in America