David Holzman’s Diary (1967, Jim McBride)

“My life, though ordinary enough, seems to haunt me in uncommon ways.”

And so, fictional amateur filmmaker Holzman sets out to film his life because, after all, film is truth. By studying the film, he will discover the truth about himself. But the film of his life begins to replace his life… and forty years before Synecdoche, New York. I think the movie’s claim to fame is that it’s a fake-documentary two decades before This Is Spinal Tap – but it’s a full decade after Peter Watkins got started, and two of his masterpieces were out already.

Holzman in his apartment:
image

Not a lot of scenes, many are one shot. McBride says there was lots of rehearsal beforehand, since there wasn’t much extra film to burn. D.H. wastes no time making his girlfriend leave by filming her naked in her sleep (below), then wanders the city, filming people on park benches, following a woman out the subway, becoming more of a camera-voyeur a la Peeping Tom / Rear Window, alternated with long nowhere-conversations with himself and a camera/mirror. There’s actually not much to Holzman or anything else in this… it’s a good enough movie, but I wouldn’t call it a favorite. Probably has less of an impact now that everybody’s got a camera and every fifth person under 30 has put a fictionalized documentary of himself up on youtube.

image

David Holzman gets as excited as Brendon Small over his fisheye lens:
image

Also watched My Girlfriend’s Wedding, which I liked better. J. Rosenbaum: “In many respects, the best ‘critique’ of David Holzman’s Diary that I know is McBride’s 1969 63-minute follow-up to it.” He’s right on – the is great to watch after the other one, with life-imitating-art actual similarities, and some obviously planned ones (Bartleby The Scribner is mentioned in both movies).

My Girlfriend, cameraman, Jim McBride:
image

Grainy and foggy as hell, nice and filmy-looking, gets off to a slow start with girlfriend (her name is bleeped out) giving us a select history of her life by pulling out everything in her purse and explaining it. She’s a Brit trying to stay in the States legally by marrying one of Abbie Hoffman’s Yippies whom she doesn’t even know, and McBride interviews her about this, watches the wedding, and talks to her new husband afterwards. The doc is simplicity itself, but the subject is well worth watching.

image

McBride went on to direct the Richard Gere remake of Breathless (co-written with the actor who played Holzman – who also worked on Bottle Rocket and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and Great Balls of Fire. Guy who shot both movies directed Woodstock and an Albert Finney werewolf movie called Wolfen.

Related posts