One of the greatest of all documentaries, Strange Victory,” directed by Leo Hurwitz, from 1948—in which he contrasts America’s involvement in the defeat of the Nazi regime with the homecoming of black American soldiers to the racist Jim Crow regime—was long unavailable. It came out a couple of years ago in DVD and Blu-ray editions from Milestone Films, which is crucial—physical media are the guarantors of some kind of shared permanence—but it wasn’t available to stream until now. It comes as part of an overflowing collection of treasures on a new Web site, leohurwitz.com, that’s devoted to the filmmaker’s life and work and offers many of his films, free of charge.

The site also features a wealth of biographical and historical resources about Hurwitz—including texts by his son Tom Hurwitz (who’s one of the great documentary cinematographers—including on Lee Grant’s “Down and Out in America”) and Manfred Kirchheimer, himself one of the great documentary filmmakers, who worked with Hurwitz as a cinematographer. Hurwitz’s career was thwarted by McCarthyite repressions: accused of being a Communist, he was banned from the movie and television industries between 1951 and 1961. (The site features excerpts from Hurwitz’s F.B.I. files.) He nonetheless managed to make films in that period, including the pioneering proto-cinéma-vérité films “Emergency Ward” and “The Young Fighter,” using a primordial synch-sound portable-camera setup devised by the cinematographer Fons Iannelli. (Because of the blacklist, Hurwitz directed the latter film remotely, guiding Iannelli through phone calls in the course of the shoot.)

Form and technique were fused in Hurwitz’s imagination, and that fusion reached its apogee in the feature “In Search of Hart Crane,” from 1966, which was produced by National Educational Television (the forerunner of PBS). What’s amazing about the film is that its form should have been a filmmaking commonplace for decades—the cinematic oral history. The rise of talking pictures in the late nineteen-twenties, even with their burdensome, studio-bound equipment, ought to have ushered in a new kind and a vital era of documentary filmmaking, in which people of all sorts would have been brought in front of the camera and the microphone to create a wide-ranging cinema of first-person experiences, as well as a historic archive of the talk of the times and the recollections of those who’d lived in them. Instead, it was left to studio television to record talkers—and to do so in such an aesthetically numb way as to give the very notion a bad name (“talking heads”).

With “In Search of Hart Crane,” Hurwitz recruits a guide into the poet’s life and work—John Unterecker, a Columbia professor who was working on a biography of Crane. The film begins with Unterecker taking viewers on a brief but affecting dive into the Crane archive, displaying and discussing manuscripts, notebooks, and artifacts (punctuated with sharply targeted citations of Crane’s poems, read on the soundtrack by the actor Gary Merrill), before raising the curtain on the film’s main events: Unterecker’s on-camera discussions with Crane’s friends and colleagues, in their offices or homes. These participants, however, are more than just Crane’s associates; they’re also his contemporaries, all seemingly in their sixties or beyond. As a result, the extraordinary interviews, filmed by Kirchheimer, as cameraman, reveal more than just the particulars of life with Crane; in the specificity of memories and the very voices in which they’re delivered, they conjure virtual images of the times.

The stories present Crane—who was born near Akron, Ohio, in 1899, and raised in Cleveland—from his early days in New York, in the late nineteen-teens, to the time of his death, in 1932, when he jumped off a ship off the coast of Florida, in what is widely believed to be a suicide. The speakers, who include the artist Charmion von Wiegand; the critics Gorham B. Munson, Waldo Frank, and Malcolm Cowley; the translator Margaret Babcock; and the writer Peggy Baird, with whom Crane had an affair and who was travelling with him at the time of his death. Their wide-ranging and candid discussions involve Crane’s enthusiastic writing (von Wiegand describes him rummaging through a thesaurus to find a word with which “he gave a shock treatment to a line”), as well as his efforts to earn a living as an advertising copywriter. Crane never finished high school, and Frank describes him as “a man from the provinces, almost like a farmer dressed up in his best suit” who nonetheless had an “inner vibrance” that conveyed, in daily action and through his very presence, a sense of his exceptional artistry.

The discussions consider Crane both intimately and artistically; the subjects include his penchant for friendship and the outrageous behavior with which he lost friends; his growing alcoholism and increasingly reckless and destructive actions; his suicide attempts; his homosexuality and his intense conflicts with himself over it; his bitter relations with his parents; and his own fear, toward the end of his life, of his poetry having reached heights that it might never again attain. The discussions depict the artistic community in Greenwich Village. Crane formed something of a quintet with Munson, Frank, Jean Toomer, and Alfred Stieglitz, and Munson describes the friends as the “supporters of Crane’s mystical development” and, together, as “climbers on this new slope of consciousness.” He and others also describe the daily struggle for money that the poet’s life entailed, and that was exacerbated by the Depression.

The participants in “In Search of Hart Crane” all speak in voices that are, in effect, archival. There are many Midwesterners in the group and others from elsewhere in the United States, all of whom have accents that were formed in an era that left them undiluted by the unifying flatteners of national radio, movies, and television. The movie’s interviews reflect a time when the hive of artistic energy that New York embodied was already a lure for ambitious and freethinking young people nationwide—and when, in the age before mass media, the distances and differences between the “provinces” and the metropolis seemed larger. It’s a portrait of the rage to create crashing up against the demands of mere subsistence—and the psychological price of that conflict on the most vulnerable, sensitive, and original of people. It’s also a drama, one that’s somewhat muffled by the broadcast standards and social manners of the time, about the destructive power of traditional moralism that persisted even in America’s bohemian capital—the conjoined struggle for personal freedom, social acceptance, and legal equality that, along with the liberating forces of urbanity, endures to this day.

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