David Holzman's Diary (1967)
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Critic Reviews for David Holzman's Diary
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 a classic character, a sympathetic-if-pathetic study in generational solipsism, delivering imported French lyricism in clunky flatlands American -- miscast by himself in his own life.
Audience Reviews for David Holzman's Diary
Obviously ahead of its time, "David Holzman's Diary" is more "important" than entertaining. Directed by the young Jim McBride ("The Big Easy," "Great Balls of Fire!") with camera work by Michael Wadleigh ("Woodstock"), this experimental film has the appearance of a self-made, autobiographical documentary. In fact, I did not realize until the closing credits that McBride was not the star. The movie is allegedly shot over eight days by its titular protagonist, who sets out to make sense of his life through capturing it on film. He has recently lost his job, and has no daily routine. Nor does he have any notable activities, beyond nuzzling his girlfriend Jenny. Unfortunately, his insistence on carrying around a camera violates her sense of privacy, particularly in a wonderfully erotic scene where he films her sleeping naked. Say goodbye to that relationship. The remainder of this 74-minute film partly shows his efforts to win her back, but much of the action seems random -- and often voyeuristic. He follows (and irritates) an attractive girl he sees on the subway. He films amorous lovers in a window across the street. He talks with a transsexual neighbor, who presses him with leering overtures. He indulgently rambles into the camera, including a defense of masturbation. A male friend fills in some theory, reminding us how a camera's insertion unavoidably skews the natural environment which it aims to observe. Such disjointed footage doesn't form a cohesive whole but, of course, that's the point. Cinema verite. However, there are at least two brilliant sequences which equal Jenny's bedroom scene. One shot silently pans around a large circle of park benches, skimming past the seated people while the soundtrack metaphorically inserts the roll call of a United Nations vote. And another scene simply shows what Holzman watched on television one night. The process is carefully explained: He watched TV with his camera focused on the set, and clicked one frame every time the shot changed. The result is a two-and-a-half-minute blitz of images -- a fascinating summary of the contemporary culture. In simulating a raw documentary, the filmmaking boldly ignores commercial polish. Scenes abruptly cut to black in a "realistic" way, and there is no sense of rhythm. Holzman's monologues drone on for an eternity -- especially a climactic tirade of frustration which erodes into little beyond him sputtering "What do you want?" and "You made me do things!" to the camera. The actor is hardly a master improviser, and just seems to run out of ideas. "David Holzman's Diary" is not easy to watch, but it is unique. Explicitly influenced by Jean-Luc Godard, it once might have seemed like a dated period piece. But in the lurid age of reality television, it gains a whole new resonance.
An amusing, unique, often brilliant satire told in the style of 'cinema verite' as a faux documentary. It is essential American underground film making in its fragmented treatment of artificial self-representation that has been served well by time.
Engrossing and fascinating film exploring the elusiveness of truth and the endless fecundity of self-observation and performance. One of my all-time favorites now for sure.
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