003 // David Holzman's Diary // My Girlfriend's Wedding
// United States // 1967
// 74 min // Noir et blanc // 1:33
The better to understand his life, and because, according to Godard "cinema is truth 24 times per second", David Holzman, a trainee filmmaker in the New York of the 1960s, starts a film diary. To see the film of his life will perhaps enable him to grasp its meaning. But David Holzman will quickly understand that the ubiquity of the camera in his daily life is not without influence on the course his existence takes...
Filmed in 1967, David Holzman's Diary is a landmark in cinema history. The event was important enough to grant the film a place in the National Register of the Library of Congress, where it is listed as a key cinema work. A precursor of the 'mockumentary' genre, the film's first audiences struggled to distinguish what was documentary and what was fiction. Bridging genres, reflecting on how reality is altered by the act of filming, Jim McBride delivers a film that is both reflexive and lighthearted, sensual and cerebral. Forty years after its completion, the film continues to be studied and rediscovered. This is one of the earliest (the first?) films seeking to pass itself off as a documentary, and it gave birth to all the hallmarks of the genre.
If the processes of the 'fake documentary' today seem common to us, and have contributed to the success of films as diverse as Embassy (Chris Marker), Punishment Park (Peter Watkins), F for Fake (Orson Welles), Man Bites Dog (Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel & Benoît Poelvoorde), The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez) or more recently Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy), David Holzman's Diary remains a precursor of the genre and one of its most subtle examples, because the artifice is always combined with a reflection on cinema. At the height of direct cinema, Jim McBride had wanted to undertake a critical exercise, to show that documentary remained a matter of staging and perspective, in short, that one should always be wary of "what looks true", of the apparent objectivity of the recording nature of the camera. Ironically, David Holzman in the film claims, by way of a homage to Godard, that "cinema is truth 24 times a second" ... which in fact the film takes great pains to refute. The great strength of the film is also its reflection on the voyeuristic aspect of cinema, on what happens when one films the intimate.
In L’Epreuve du réel à l’écran (De Boeck), François Niney reminds us on this subject that McBride's film shows "that to be something more than voyeurism or exhibitionism, cinema-verité or direct cinema require either the staging of a true exchange between filmer and filmed (as with Rouch), or the construction of an objective space where the protagonists can evolve, talk, and be heard, as with Wiseman [...] Since the subjective monomaniac camera leaves no escape for the filmed than to be its - more or less consenting - preys, or to escape it. »
As such, David Holzman’s Diary is somewhat secretly in dialogue with Powell and Pressburger's Peeping Tom.
DVD and extras
David Holzman's Diary (1967 / 73 min / English / Subtitles: French)
My Girlfriend’s Wedding (1969 / 61 min / English / Subtitles: French)
My Son’s Wedding to my Sister-in-Law : a previously unreleased postscript by Jim McBride (2008 / 9 min)
Analysis by François Niney (20 min)
Booklet (32 pages): Interview & text by Jonathan Rosenbaum; David Holzman as seen by Julia Rolland (sketchbook)
New subtitles by Bernard Eisenschitz
DVD 9 / Pal / All Zones / 4/3 & 16/9 / Restored masters / Chapter selection
Press and responses to the DVD
"Playful and abyssal David Holzman's Diary is an obvious landmark film on the questioning of reality through fiction, and vice versa. "Arnaud Hée / / Critikat.com
"Few first films can boast such influence, conscious or otherwise, nor claim such a rich lineage. " Cyril Neyrat // Les Cahiers du cinéma
"its ambiguities about the various crossovers between documentary and fiction remain as up to date as the films of Kiarostami. [...] One of the first and best of the great pseudo-documentaries, sometimes known nowadays as mockumentaries—-and certainly one of the cleverest to be made in the '60s after Peter Watkins’ Culloden (1964) and The War Game (1965). " Jonathan Rosenbaum
"An astounding tour de force [...] A film that can only excite us because it asks the question: what is cinema? " Michel Ciment // Le Masque et la plume, 1975
Jim McBride was born in 1941 à New York, where he returned to study cinema after a period spent in Sao Paulo. In the 1960s he frequented Jonas Mekas' Filmaker's Cinematheque, where he saw the films of Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol and Shirley Clarke. He also became familiar with the burgeoning direct cinema movement, and the films of Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers in particular. Traces of this avant garde and documentary background can of course be found in David Holzman's Diary (1967), his first film. The film was co-written with Kit Carson, who also performed the title role. Finding the film to be too short, the producer asked Jim McBride to pair it with a short film. Jim McBride thus had the idea to create My Girlfriend's Wedding in which interviews his girlfriend, Clarissa, as she prepares to marry a Vietnam peace activist in order to stay in the USA. Ultimately, the film's running time was one hour. Doing the rounds of the biggest festivals, the two films rapidly acquired a cult status while remaining largely invisible to the general public.
There followed a troubled period, however, where McBride struggled to get his films made, this included a western with an ambitious structure produced by Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces), which was eventually taken up by Dennis Hopper. He managed nevertheless to direct Hot Times (1974) the mercenary slogan of which was "American Graffiti but with sex ". In 1971 he also directed Pictures From Life’s Other Side (which concluded the 'filmed diary' trilogy that had begun with David Holzman) and Glen and Randa (1971), an intimate post apocalyptique science fiction film.
Jim McBride would wait ten years before completing his next project, the American remake of Jean-Luc Godard's A Bout de Souffle. Breathless – Made in USA with Valérie Kaprisky and Richard Gere was produced in Hollywood. Jim McBride also briefly knew Godard at the end of the 1970s when Godard planned to direct his American film, produced by Coppola. Jim McBride then directed primarily for television. In particular, he directed an episode of the series Six Feet Under in 2001. He continued however to make films for the big screen, including The Big Easy, a thriller starring Dennis Quaid and Great Balls of Fire, a biopic of Jerry Lee Lewis, which was fairly successful.
In 2007, Jim McBride made a brief appearance in Les Plages d’Agnès by Agnès Varda, a long-time friend.
We warmly congratulate David Yon, director of The Night and the kid and David Kremer director of Sons of Barents, who win within a few days of each others the Special Jury award at Fronteira Festival for the Night and the kid and Nancy-Lorraine International Festival for Sons of Barents.
Suspended by the night will be screening for the first time in France during the General States of Documentary Film of Lussas ! August the 21th on Tënk selection.
De McBride à Joseph Morder
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Weekend at the beach...
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