#143) David Holzman’s Diary (1967)

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#143) David Holzman’s Diary (1967)

OR “Confessions of a Film Junkie”

Directed & Written by Jim McBride

Class of 1991

The Plot: David Holzman (L.M. Kit Carson) is a young filmmaker who decides to record his daily life in order to better observe/learn about himself. This leads to some pretty awkward interactions with friends and strangers alike, most disastrously with his model girlfriend Penny (Eileen Dietz). The result is a docudrama that blurs the line between fiction and reality.

Why It Matters: The NFR says the film “captures the essence of the filmmaker as artist while skewering it with its own devices”. They also say that “David Holzman’s Diary” led the way for “This is Spinal Tap”, “Waiting for Guffman”, and other mockumentaries. I…don’t think so.

But Does It Really?: It’s not the forefather to modern mockumentary, but “David Holzman’s Diary” definitely pushes the limits of docufiction. Carson gives such a natural performance I started to wonder if this was an actual documentary. The film definitely has its uncomfortably voyeuristic moments, but that may be the filmmakers making a statement about these kind of films (at least I’m hoping that’s what they were aiming for). I give “David Holzman’s Diary” a pass for its inventiveness, its introduction to Jim McBride, and its unique view of late ‘60s Upper West Side living.

Shout Outs: David mentions “The Life of Emile Zola” and “Singin’ in the Rain” during his narration. There’s also a “Touch of Evil” poster in his apartment.

Everybody Gets One: Pretty much everyone. There isn’t a lot of information about Jim McBride or L.M. Kit Carson prior to 1967, other than they were classmates at New York University together.

Wow, That’s Dated: Obviously the entire filming process. Today this would be filmed on a phone and uploaded to YouTube where it belongs!

Seriously, Oscars?: No Oscars, but it did win Grand Prize at the 1967 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Festival. So that’s cool.

Other notes

  • The song playing during the opening montage of David filming along the street is “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the M.G.s. Not super important, I’ve just never known what that song was called.
  • That camera weighs 18 pounds!? Someone please invent the camcorder.
  • Is it healthy for a man to have that many photos of his girlfriend on the wall?
  • Penny is uncomfortable being on camera because she’s “not dressed”. No one tell her that we’ve already seen her full-frontal photo shoot.
  • Pepe’s run about how fake this film is goes on for a while. At one point he asks where he should put his hands. Common concern.
  • David’s monologue while he’s filming a sleeping Penny makes him sound like that creepy guy from “American Beauty”. No, not that one.
  • I’m pretty sure David’s phone calls to Penny are the reason we have Caller ID now.
  • Ugh, Truffaut name-dropping. Like I already don’t hate you enough, David.
  • Sandra, where have you been all my life?
  • Very disappointed the internet doesn’t know which episode of the original “Star Trek” series David watches on TV. Come on, Trekkies!
  • And now a seemingly never-ending parade of old people on park benches! I kept expecting David to do a Tom Servo run.
  • Holzman’s filming strategy: Film until someone says to stop.
  • Answering services. What a horribly awkward job.
  • Any debates I had about the authenticity of this film were laid to rest when Max showed up. Bob Lesser is not much of an actor.
  • Shout-out to Margaret Rutherford.
  • David thinks about trains going into tunnels while he’s masturbating? He watches too many movies.
  • When will couples learn not to start making out in front of an open window?
  • But how did he get the film back?

Legacy

  • Vlogs. I’m blaming this film for vlogs.
  • Jim McBride would continue making docudramas for the next decade before shifting to more conventional fare. His most notable films were his two with Dennis Quaid: “The Big Easy” and “Great Balls of Fire!”
  • A reminder that Jim McBride also directed the made-for-TV movie “Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back”.
  • M. Kit Carson would continue to act and produce, but his most successful film venture was as screenwriter for indie darling “Paris, Texas”.
  • Eileen Dietz is still going strong, though her main claim to film immortality is her brief performance as the demon Pazuzu in “The Exorcist”.

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