Why ‘David Holzman’s Diary’ Still Matters

The greatest movie ever shot in Dallas is probably still Bottle Rocket. The honor of the greatest movie ever made by a Dallasite, however, may have go to David Holzman’s Diary. Shot in 1967 on a grant from the Museum of Modern Art, the legend behind the film is that filmmakers Jim McBride and L.M. Kit Carson took the cash they were supposed to use to conduct a study of cinéma vérité and instead produced an ingenious spoof of the genre during Carson’s senior year spring break from the University of Dallas. A mock-doc/proto-YouTube confessional, Holzman blurs the line between reality and fiction, and in doing so, draws into contention the idea that an image caught on camera can ever be considered non-fiction (or as Dick put it so eloquently in his music review this morning, “the touch of our eyes knocks things slightly off balance”).

McBride and Carson’s obsessive love story not only holds up today, it stands as a prophetic incarnation of the future of the visual record, a movie that anticipates the blur of images and half-captured lives that define the contemporary visual landscape.

So it should come as no surprise that the film is beginning to get a lot of attention. The Museum of Modern Art will launch an engagement of a digitally restored version of the film beginning June 15. And over the weekend, L.M. Kit Carson attended a screening of the film in Pennsylvania. Carson writes in an email that he was surprised not only by the positive response to the work, but by the sudden recognition he had on campus.

“Invited to Memorial Weekend Fest in Penn for DAVID HOLZMAN’S DIARY — it plays like a YouTube movie. The Fest-goers reacted like David was just last week on their computer-screen. They acted like they knew me (David?) When I walked around the Fest later, folks familiarly nodded, grinned, film-loving femmes silently mouthed: “Hi Guy”… uh… “

Needless to say, I don’t see how David Holzman’s Diary doesn’t work itself into a FrontRow film series at some point. But for now, you can pick up the movie at Premiere, if you’ve never seen it. A clip: