David Holzman's Diary: Special Edition [Blu-ray]
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David Holzman's Diary is one of the most influential films of the 1960's, an ''ingenious puzzle movie'' (Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader) that charts the self destruction of a media-saturated youth. As news from the Vietnam War and social unrest blares over the radio, David Holzman (L.M. Kit Carson) unloads comic-neurotic monologues to his 16mm camera. When his relationship with Penny (Eileen Dietz) goes south, he retreats further into moving images, secretly recording his pretty neighbor and even turning his lens to the TV shows he watches. No longer able to deal with life outside celluloid all of his ties to the real world begin to erode. This ''totally delightful satire'' (NY Times) of a narcissistic artist is also a well-crafted fiction about the depictions of cinematic illusionism. Early on, Holzman quotes Jean-Luc Godard's famous dictum that ''the cinema is truth 24 frames-per-second.'' As director Jim McBride (Breathless (1983), The Big Easy, Great Balls of Fire!) teaches and Holzman soon learns, it lies just as often. This Special Edition includes Jim McBride's full length film ''My Girlfriend's Wedding'' (61 minutes), achieving the director's intention for these two films (David Holzman's Diary & My Girlfriend's Wedding) to be shown together for the first time. Also included on this Special Edition Blu-ray is McBride's ''Pictures From Life s Other Side'' (45 mins) and his short ''My Son s Wedding to My Sister-In-Law'' (8 Mins).
An enduring delight from the underground era. --Time Out
A landmark in independent filmmaking that feels as fresh as ever. --Cinematheque
A delightful satire... Time has served it very well. --The New York Times
A landmark in independent filmmaking that feels as fresh as ever. --Cinematheque
A delightful satire... Time has served it very well. --The New York Times
Top customer reviews
The Fox Lorber transfer ends with David Holzman being forced to confront his ex-girlfriend Penny, after being caught by a policeman filming Penny through her window from the street. The last words on the the Fox Lorber transfer are: " ...Penny said forget it." These words are said over black.
It's as if the person in charge of the transfer got bored or impatient at this point because this is where this transfer ends. The film should go on to show Holzman having his film equipment stolen, ending with a series of photo booth shots.
This film is an important film and deserves better treatment than this. Fox Lorber please redress this problem and retrieve the existing faulty transfers. I look forward to a time when we can see a complete version of this film.
During the '50s through the '70s, Cinéma vérité was a way for one to analyze the war, one's way of life, society... and sure enough, one man would create a fake documentary titled "David Holzman's Diary" to showcase the style of documentary filmmaking but also to made viewers at the time wonder...was it fake or was it real?
Whatever that answer may be, one thing is clear... the mock documentary became a bonafide American classic and some consider the film as the beginning of the mockumentary.
And just to think that this film came from Jim McBride, the popular filmmaker with a string of mainstream box office hits with "Breathless" (1983), "The Big Easy" (1987) and "Great Balls of Fire!" (1989) and directing TV episodes of "The Wonder Years" (1990-1991), McBride was known for his independent film work.
Primarily for the film "David Holzman's Diary", a film that is a parody on the art of documentary-making and McBride's first film that was selected in 1991 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".
To celebrate McBride's independent film career, Lorber Films is releasing "David Holzman's Diary" on Blu-ray but also including three other of his films, documentaries "My Girlfriend's Wedding" (1969), "Pictures from Life's Other Side" (1971) and "My Son's Wedding to My Sister-in-Law" (2008).
"David Holzman's Diary" revolves around Daviz Holzman (played by L.M. Kit Carson), a neurotic and narcissistic individual who has gotten a hold of a 16 mm camera and immediately, David begins to record a diary of himself, a film which he would star people in his life and those who live within the area.
But as Holzman, a cinema fan who quotes Jean-Luc Godard's "the cinema is truth 24 frames-per-second" but is it?
In the film, Holzman showcases the real New York, from the social unrest that was occurring in the city at the time and also the Vietnam War. Holzman tries to show the people in his life such as Penny (played by Eileen Dietz), his girlfriend who he tends to alienate as he films her without her permission.
Sandra feels alienated as David is consumed by his filmmaking lifestyle and can't put the camera down. She asks him to stop, he doesn't. He even films her while she is sleeping in the nude, without her permission. Needless to say, the relationship is one-sided.
David also tries to get his friend Pepe (played by Lorenzo Mans) in the film. And Pepe also ridicules him for trying to create a film about his life. Who would watch that? A film is about escaping reality. Who would want to watch a film about reality? Moreso, who would want to watch a film about the life of David Holzman?
But the more we watch David, we get to learn of how odd he is.
From Sandra, the woman who lives a floor above him and a woman that he silently stalks and watches outside her apartment window to get a glimpse of her and speaks of what he finds so fascinating about her. May it be her movements or her everyday actions, he is obsessed by her.
But as David Holzman starts to find how difficult it is to create a film about himself and his life, will his film ever be finalized?
"David Holzman's Diary" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is shot in black and white. It's important to remember that in order to capture the low-budget feel of David Holzman's film, the film had to look like it was shot in an extremely low budget and in this case, that budget was $2,500.
But while the film was made to look low budget, the fact is that this 16mm film was shot back in 1969 and as one would expect, it has had its share of film degradation.
But fortunately, through the restoration by the Pacific Film Archive, the University of California and the Berkeley Art Museum, this is probably the most wonderful picture quality of the film to date. The film looks fantastic. I saw no warping, no massive dust or scratches, no major damage whatsoever. The contrast, the blacks, the grays and the whites...the picture quality looks fantastic!
Considering the film was low-budget and shot in 16mm, it's great to see this classic restored and look absolutely great in HD!
"David Holzman's Diary: Special Edition" is presented in 2.0 monaural. Once again, this film was meant to seem low budget and amateurish, so while the dialogue is clear, you can hear noises that in most cases, audio restoration would try to remove, but in this case, it is part of the film and what makes the film seem so real. It's deficiencies in audio at times but also how sound plays a big part in showcasing the era and the troubles in society at that time.
Possibly the coolest addition of the Blu-ray release of "David Holzman's Diary" is the inclusion of the following three special features:
My Girlfriend's Wedding - (1969, 63 minutes) A documentary featuring Jim McBride and his girlfriend Clarissa Ainley and how Clarissa will be marrying another man for the purpose of getting a green card. A very intellectual conversation driven documentary.
Pictures From Life's Other Side - (1971, 45 minutes) A documentary featuring Jim McBride, his girlfriend Clarissa Ainley and her young son traveling across the country to look for a home.
My Son's Wedding to My Sister-in-Law - (2008, 9 minutes) A featurette showcasing Jim McBride, Clarissa Ainley and her son today.
"David Holzman's Diary" comes with a slipcase.
I absolutely enjoyed "David Holzman's Diary". I'm sure at the time, the movie was so unique, so fresh and while it is satire, the fact that the talent were unknown talent and the actions seemed quite real and believable. Mockumentary at its finest. It's how I would describe this film.
From David trying to film his girlfriend and to see her slowly getting irritated and frustrated by him shooting her on camera but then to see common instinct come to play when he films her while she is sleeping (naked) and to wake up and to see him filming. Obviously a big betrayal but to see him not care so much about her, but yet have this obsession towards a woman who lives in the same building but yet he has never met, there is no doubt that David Holzman is a bit off.
A mockumentary, faux-film ala Cinéma vérité, Davd Holzman's diary is a bonafide classic, loved by many and has been given a definitive release on Blu-ray courtesy of Lorber Films.
It's one thing to have Jim McBride's classic on Blu-ray but to also have his two earlier documentaries "My Girlfriend's Wedding" and "Pictures from Life's Other Side" plus "My Son's Wedding to My Sister-in-Law" is fantastic.
"My Girlfriend's Wedding" may not be for the masses as it is a documentary based on intellectual conversation as McBride's girlfriend Clarissa Ainley talks about her life, her perspective on society but also marrying someone other than her boyfriend for a green card. Fast forward and the two return in the documentary "Pictures From Life's Other Side" as we see the McBride and a pregnant Ainley, along with her son traveling across the country to find a new home. Interesting discussions, especially hearing of what comes out of Ainley's young son's mouth.
And of course, what better way to wrap things up the family documentaries by concluding with "My Son's Wedding to My Sister-in-Law" and learn how everyone turned out since those documentaries were made and how complex things have become in McBride's extended family.
Overall, if you enjoyed "David Holzman's Diary", not only are you getting the best looking version of the film to date but you are also getting a wonderful release celebrating Jim McBride's independent work.
A five-star release! "David Holzman's Diary: Special Edition" is highly recommended!
But that's as it should be. All part of the filmmaker's plan, to lock us into the paralyzed, semi-stoned headspace of the youthful (22 years old), newly unemployed, sexually frustrated, dangerously draftable and existentially adrift Mr. David Holzman as he grasped for some anchor of meaning and purpose in his life at a particularly poignant juncture.
The explicitly stated mission of David Holzman's Diary is to put into practice none other than Jean-Luc Godard's oft-quoted maxim that "the cinema is truth at 24 frames per second." As much as I enjoy (and often stand in awe of) the films of M. Godard, I've long felt the impulse to call BS on this particular bit of attention-grabbing, self-gratifying hyperbole that probably issued from his lips in a moment of cynical ecstasy, as he recognized that he had a reporter hanging reverently on his every utterance and some strange impulse overtook him to send forth those captivating but ultimately hollow words. And yet... and yet, Godard's reputation amongst a certain set of young intellectuals at the time was such that the phrase pointed the way to an obscure but mind-expanding truth. Similarly weighted ponderings by acolytes of various tastes and temperaments were being accorded to the sayings of pop culture prophets like Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Lenny Bruce and Paramahansa Yogananda. Among others. This film is merely the filmic journal of an earnest Godardian true believer.
On a side note, one of the aspects of this pioneering work that I found most fascinating was the record it provides of the technical set-up necessary to make such a movie back then. Shoulder mounted camera, bulky lavalier mic around the neck feeding into a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder - that was probably a good 35 pounds of stuff that had to be affixed to David's body to capture the free walking action that puts us virtually on the streets of northern Manhattan in the Summer of Love. So underscoring all the intellectual labor on display here, there's also a rigorous physical aspect, a price being exacted in the timeless currency of sweat and muscle sacrificed in the pursuit of art.
Given the recent adversities that young Mr. Holzman had to endure, I can hardly blame him for reaching out, practically in desperation, for some measure of reassurance from the cinema, that source of cultural wisdom and comfort that had sustained him over the recent months when life was rolling along in a more manageable fashion. If an actual flourish of enlightenment should occur in the process, neither he nor we would object, I'm quite sure. His name dropping of celebrated directors like Luchino Visconti, Francois Truffaut and Vincent Minnelli still resonates meaningfully to viewers nearly 50 years later, as we discover a common bond of aesthetic refinement that's been cultivated and blossomed along similar lines of development despite our respective distance in geospatial and chronosystemic coordinates.
So we're privileged to accompany Holzman on his shambolic, spontaneous pilgrimage through the streets of New York City, over the course of a week or so in mid-July 1967. We meet his girlfriend Penny, unfortunately a bit too hung up to feel fully at ease in front of the camera, despite having accumulated many hours of experience as a fashion model who even consents to doing the occasional nude shot. She's given multiple chances to reveal her inner light for the rest of us to enjoy, but she winds up copping out, quite literally actually, going so far as to call the police to turn her (ex) boyfriend away when he tries to patch things up and get back in her groove.
David's friend Pepe fares a little better, even though he kind of functions as a Captain Comedown, if that makes sense, puncturing some holes in Holzman's theories by calling into question several of the principles propelling the conceptual urgency that brought this project to fruition. I gotta respect David's ballsy artistic integrity to include this skeptical critique into the final cut, like he's not all that bothered to let his cynical friend's bummer take on his scheme get equal time, since he inherently holds confidence that the truth will indeed bear itself out.
Holzman's journey into the heart of cinematic darkness proceeds relentlessly, as he conquers his fear and includes the salty parlay of a jaded old whore who pulls up one afternoon in her Thunderbird for an impromptu curbside interview. She's so brash, so brazen... frankly, so much more experienced in the ways of the world in comparison to our sensitive but still rather callow protagonist, that he finds himself unable to match pace with her barrage of casual mocking profanity. By the time his tape runs out, it's painfully clear that David has endured a humbling rite of passage... yet another layer of youthful naivete and delusion stripped away, and not without a requisite degree of suffering. Still, it's a necessary encounter in his pilgrimage toward the truth.
And his meandering journey continues through several more passages that, even as they galvanize our attention while we sit in passive contemplation of the moments his camera has captured on film, must have been all the more vivifying and soul-stirring to experience in person. The contemplation of an enigmatic beauty, randomly enjoined on an afternoon's subway ride, that metamorphoses into a thrilling pursuit through the concrete canyons of an urban jungle... the time-etched visages of wizened elders, seated in a long circuitous row on benches in Needle Park, accompanied by the inscrutable ballots cast by the gathered nations of the world on a UN proposal of vague significance... the rapturous obtainment of a fish-eye lens and a glorious indulgence in the bulbous perspective that is made possible when Life is Observed through this uniquely crafted artificial eye.
And let me not neglect to mention the space-age stimulation of an entire evening's worth of network TV, flashed past us in just a few frenetic minutes. The Huntley/Brinkley news broadcast, first-run episodes of Batman, Star Trek, the Dean Martin variety program, late night talk shows, even a post-midnight airing of Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes. And commercials... the commercials! Still capable after all these years, and even in this incomprehensibly compressed format of delivering their powerfully efficient subliminal messages. What I wouldn't give right now for a pack of Lark cigarettes!
David Holzman's Diary eventually proceeds toward a conclusion as bitterly futile, as exasperatingly perverse and ultimately thwarted as any movie I can recall viewing from recent memory. But that's not to say that the journey was unsatisfying, or lacked in any significant way that note of emphatic conclusion that assures us the time spent under its spell was a worthy investment of that most precious resource. Not all endeavors into new and uncharted territories will deliver a bounty of material or intellectual rewards. Indeed, our accompaniment with David along the way of his sad sojourn is a small dole of recompense for one who bravely pioneered a path that many of us might have otherwise traveled, were it not for his proverbial example. He courageously subjected himself to the tyranny of camera and recorder, celluloid and magnetic tape, slavishly obedient to their whims in an experimental frenzy, laying down his guard, shedding himself of inhibitions in a manner most worthy of those fearless, and all too often anonymous, astral-nauts of the golden age of psychedelia.
David Holzman's name has indeed almost certainly been forgotten by far too many of his cultural descendants of the new millennium, who owe him more than their young minds and deprived educations can even begin to fathom. He cleared a path for our exploration, and when he reached its inevitable end, he overcame the harsh disappointment he must have felt so that he could turn around and face us. He preserved this precious record in durable media, placed it before us, now freely accessible thanks to the wonders of the internet, and erected a sign post clearly warning us all: DO NOT FOLLOW.