By Richard Winters
My Rating: 8 out of 10
4-Word Review: He records his life.
David (L.M. Kit Carson) is a young college-aged movie fan who wants to use the camera to not only record his life, but help him better understand and interpret reality. Unfortunately he finds that instead of clarifying things the camera instead brings out even more of reality’s complexities making his life and the world he is in even more confusing. It also inadvertently exposes a darker side to his personality that he wasn’t aware of which his voyeurism to both an attractive woman across the street as well as his live-in girlfriend Penny (Eileen Dietz) who eventually gets fed up with his film and him and moves out.
I realize the saying ‘ahead of its time’ can get a bit overused, but this is one case where that term really fits. This movie is cool on many different levels and features scenes and segments that you will never see done anywhere else. The Cinema verite style is perfect and I loved how the camera gets turned on itself as we are given a good background and visual to the type of camera that was used and why for its time was considered a cutting edge piece of machinery. The scene where he takes a shot of every image that he saw during a night of television viewing and then plays it back creating a mosaic of flashing images from shows and commercials is equally cool. The segment where he interviews a woman, which was apparently a man dressed in drag, but quite hard to tell, who stops her car in the middle of the street to tell him of her candid sexual desires while holding up traffic is quite amusing as is the part where he stalks a nervous lady from a subway car out onto the city streets.
The film also successfully transcends its time period. I have always said it is very easy to tell the time period or decade a movie was made usually after viewing it for only a few minutes, but this was one case where it is actually quite hard to tell. The detached, hip nature of the protagonist is still trendy and the film’s existential philosophical approach dealing with an artist’s need to recreate reality, but ultimately failing is as relevant today as ever. The loosely structured ad-libbed dialogue gives it a legitimate documentary feeling and was so believable that when audiences first viewed it during the 60’s they booed when they saw the closing credits and realized it had all been made-up. This was also the first American film to use the f-word and one of the first to feature full nudity, which is done by the attractive Dietz who later went on to play the face of the demon in the movie The Exorcist.
Although I saw this movie many years earlier and was already a big fan I watched it again during a special showing at the The Marchesa Theatre in Austin as a tribute to the film’s star who passed away in October of 2014. Afterwards many people got on stage to talk about how Carson had inspired them with their lives and careers and it included his son Hunter Carson as well as film director Guillermo del Toro who was probably the most entertaining.
If the film has any drawbacks it’s in the use of black frames that are shown in between shots where for several seconds the viewer will see no image at all and at times only a voice over. This might’ve been done for effect, but ends up giving it too much of an amateurish feel. There are also times when the camera stays too fixated on its subject making it look too much like talking heads with not enough cutaways or interesting camera angles. Overall though it’s still one-of-a-kind and worth checking out for a glimpse at experimental and original filmmaking at its purest.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
Released: October 3, 1967
Runtime 1Hour 14Minutes
Director: Jim McBride
Studio: Direct Cinema Limited
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video