David Holzman's Diary Reviews
There's always a danger when you are nostalgic about a film you have seen so many years ago, that you might ruin a good memory by not enjoying it as much as you did initially all those years ago. But this was not the case with this film.
FILM IS TRUTH 24 FRAMES A SECOND
This is a quote by Jean-Luc Godard, and is used as the basis of the film. David Holzman is trying to solve the mystery of everyday life, trying to make sense of it. So he figures if he captures it all on film and watches it back it may make more sense and he can pick up on things that would normally pass him by. So he begins obsessively filming all aspects of his life, until it starts to unravel before him and he finds even less answers.
It's still so relative to today, in the age of reality television. There's a great monologue in one part of the film where a character explains that nothing that is in front of the camera and aware of the camera is natural, because of the conscious presence of the camera.
All in all though, I love the feel of the film, its shot in this brilliant black and white and the sequences where he films sweeping through the streets of 1960's new york just makes you feel like you're there, opening up and diving into an era so long gone.
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.