Cinéma vérité. It is a style of documentary filmmaking, combining naturalistic techniques with stylized cinematic devices of editing and camerawork, staged set-ups, and the use of the camera to provoke subjects.
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!