David Holzman’s Diary Screen 12 articles

David Holzman’s Diary

1967

David Holzman’s Diary Poster
  • Where most independent productions are founded on self-righteous claims of truth and honesty, McBride's film wittily observes that Hollywood has no corner on illusionism. Even the black-and-white, hand-held cinema still lies 24 times a second.

  • Far from a standard mockumentary or shambling, comic satire, McBride’s recreation of the stages of this fictive, audiovisual diary is peppered with dramatic ellipses, emotional suspense, and a pleasing, always surprising set of varying situations. This is a one-off classic of independent filmmaking. It is also remarkably prescient.

  • However personal some of its origins might be, David Holzman’s Diary is in fact a great work of synthesis summarizing the very notions of the film director as subject (and therefore as superstar) and the camera as tool of self-scrutiny that the 60s film explosion inspired. And its ambiguities about the various crossovers between documentary and fiction remain as up to date as the films of Kiarostami.

  • There are so many contemporary cultural phenomena that this film is a precursor to. The "mockumentary," for one thing. Reality television, for another. Hence, one might expect it to pack a more particularly galvanic effect when viewed today. But no. And perhaps that's to the filmmakers' credit.David Holzman's Diary registers most strongly as a small-scaled tragi-comedy.

  • The simulacrum is so convincing in all of its details that you can be forgiven for idly thinking, as you watch, that it’s Holzman’s film, not McBride and Carson’s. As a character, Holzman himself constitutes ninety percent of the film’s “material,” and the film functions in its various mirrored ways because he is simultaneously such a vivid, convincingly flawed creation, and because he represents not just a generation of media children, but also aspects of us all.

  • David Holzman's Diary is from stem to stern a simulacrum of that era's cinéma vérité movement, but its seamlessness as such is due in large part, paradoxically, to its theatrical qualities, in which the raw quality of each scene and performance, examined closely, is revealed to be the result of meticulous preparation and rehearsal, or, at least, some highly skilled improvisation.

  • The movie feels like the ur-text of so much: mockumentaries, Twitter, reality TV and the cult of the YouTube auteur. Perhaps more lastingly, though, David Holzman's Diary has become the very object it was parodying: a lovely piece of vrit, one that captures the late-'60s Upper West Side in all its grimy glory. Cops, neighbors, car horns, sass---all of it survives in a record of one filmmaker's creative breakthrough and the urban metropolis that inspired it. Essential.

  • David Holzman’s reality show leaves us asking, what is real behind the images we’re watching? How does the camera affect the outcome of the reality it’s capturing? These are questions that will never go away, and in fact are worth asking more than ever, even though most film and video makers have stopped asking them.

  • Jim McBride's faux-documentary feels like a watershed moment in film history, foreshadowing a shift toward a more mechanical, oppressive, even menacing form of cinematic expression multiple decades before the pervasiveness of the Internet and digital technology. Like Michael Powell's Peeping Tom, David Holzman's Diary skewers the filmic footprints of its cinematic forefathers by complicating perspective, blurring the line between fantasy and reality in jarring ways.

  • A treasure of a film, blending documentary and fiction in an organic and actually aggressive way, doling out both metatextual questions of film form (documentary, cinema verite), idiosyncratic questions of film theory (Hitchcock's voyeurs), and personal ruminations on aimlessness and purpose (unemployed filmmakers).

  • You now have to keep reminding yourself that back then there weren't a million people talking to cameras every day and uploading the results to YouTube, that the very existence of this diary was meant to be representative of an aberrant mindset. (Points for prescience, obviously.) Though at the same time no you don't, because among its many other virtues it makes a fascinating time capsule of New York in the '60s, walking a wavering, improbable line between solipsism and urban ethnography.

  • This ingenious, scruffy 1967 metafiction by Jim McBride is an exotic fruit grown in New York from the seed of the French New Wave... Holzman’s personal testament to the sweet normalcy that he is about to lose—and the time capsule that he’ll leave behind in the event that he doesn’t make it back—is also an extraordinary portrait, through sharp and sentimental inventions, of the moods and tones of his place and time.

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