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Matinee: Bobby Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

17 March 2018

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 141st in our series of Saturday matinees today: Robert F. Kennedy's Final Journey to Washington from New York by Train.

On June 8, 1968, the body of Robert F. Kennedy arrived in Washington, D.C. for burial at Arlington Cemetery. The Penn Central train transporting him had spent the afternoon traveling south from New York City, slowing down at the stations along the way where thousands had gathered to salute the slain senator.

Fifty years ago.

The Train at SFMOMA opens today. It's a three-room exhibit by three artists that take that train trip as their inspiration.

Photographer Paul Fusco was aboard the train but prohibited from shooting inside it. So he trained his lens on the crowds outside, slowing his shutter as the daylight faded until only ghosted images of the crowd were all he could capture. A few of his nearly 2,000 stills appear in this clip.

Dutch artist Rein Jelle Terpstra, inspired by Fusco's images, sought out some of the many people who photographed the train on its sad voyage. He acquired their scrapbooks pages, Super 8 video and drugstore prints to complement Fusco's view of that day.

In the final room of the SFMOMA exhibit, French artist Philippe Parreno reenacts the trip in a seven-minute 70mm film with the projector in a see-through enclosure.

It's a compelling exhibit merging history with memory and reeactment. We attended the press preview Thursday and will publish our report shortly.

But meanwhile, this clip brings the day back with Fusco's stills and video of the train journey. Edward Kennedy's eulogy for his brother provides the soundtrack to the video. In it, he quotes his brother's speech delivered in South Africa:

Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.

That generation, yes, and even more certainly this one.

Edward Kennedy described his brother as "simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."

Would that there were such a person in the White House now.

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