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Film / David Holzman's Diary

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David Holzman's Diary is a 1967 film directed by Jim McBride.

It is a Mockumentary made over a decade before the genre was popularized with This Is Spın̈al Tap. David Holzman (L.M. "Kit" Carson) is a young man living in Manhattan who has just lost his job (what sort of job isn't specified), and has also been notified that he has been classified 1-A by the draft board during a bad time to be drafted. Feeling adrift, David elects to make sense of his life by making a documentary, or "video diary", of his life.

His good-looking model girlfriend Penny is extremely irritated by the idea of getting filmed and his friend Pepe pours scorn on the idea, but David pushes forward. His animating goal, to gain understanding of and order in his life, is however a decisive failure. Instead things continue to unravel, with David growing more bitter and erratic as his filming continues.

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Tropes:

  • Camera Fiend: David starts to get to a point where he seems unable to engage with reality without his camera and his tape recorder. He starts addressing them as if they are sentient, calling the camera "Leica".
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: After Penny breaks up with him, and sends her agent over to retrieve her clothes, David goes on a little talk about the benefits of masturbation.
  • Downer Ending: A last recording from David, made in some public recording booth, reveals that his apartment was robbed and they took his camera and recording equipment along with everything else. And of course he's still jobless and desperately lonely.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: A rather disturbing one in which David, riding the subway, sees an attractive woman in the car. He follows her off the car, up the stairs, onto the street, and across the street to the next block, before she finally turns and angrily tells him to go away.
  • Fanservice: David films his girlfriend Penny in the nude.
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    • Fan Disservice: Not only was she sleeping, but he had earlier expressly promised not to film her. When she wakes up and catches him she's super-pissed, and she breaks up with him immediately.
  • Fast-Forward Gag: One scene has David showing everything he watched on television in a single evening. The images go past at blinding speed, but among the things he watched are Bewitched, Star Trek (in fact, the first episode of Star Trek, "Where No Man Has Gone Before"), Joan Crawford film Harriet Craig, and Shirley Temple film Bright Eyes.
  • Film the Hand: One individual, probably a real New Yorker who didn't want a camera on his face, sticks his hand over David's lens.
  • Mockumentary: There are no opening credits and all the participants were nobodies, so until the end of the film and the closing credits there's no indication that this is not a real diary by a real person named David Holzman. Some people in 1967 were reportedly irritated to find out that they hadn't just watched a documentary.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: One stage in David's advancing creepiness comes when he films his pretty neighbor, S. Schwartz, throwing some garbage into a sidewalk garbage can. He immediately goes on a ridiculous spiel about her beautiful poetic movement and how it mirrors an observation made by Jean-Luc Godard.
  • The Oner: Long panning shots of all the old people sitting on park benches on a summer day.
  • The Peeping Tom: David gets steadily creepier over the course of the movie. He starts filming a pretty woman who lives in an apartment across the street. Near the end he's caught by a cop lurking outside Penny's apartment, filming her through a window.
  • Sanity Slippage: An understated example, but David gets weirder and creepier over the course of the movie. He starts following women around and filming strangers through windows. Near the end he gets agitated, blaming his camera and tape recorder for making him do weird things, addressing them as if they were people, screaming "WHY DOESN'T THIS HELP ME? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?" Then he tells the tape recorder and the camera that he's sorry. Then he kisses his microphone.
  • Satire: A satire of the low-budget, Deliberately Monochrome, fly-on-the-wall documentaries like Primary that were really catching on in the 1960s.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: How Penny is dressed one morning in David's apartment. The sexiness is undercut when she demands that David stop filming her.
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    • It's bad enough when David films an attractive woman across the street through her window. It gets worse when he admits that he went looking at the mailbox and discovered her name to be "S. Schwartz". It gets worse still when David calls S. Schwartz when she's about to have sex with her boyfriend, addressing her by various S names in an attempt to find out what her first name is.
    • He follows a woman off a subway train and onto the street, before she finally turns around and tells him to get lost.
    • Near the end he's caught filming Penny through her window from the street.
  • Shout-Out: Many. David the pretentious film snob has posters of Touch of Evil and Suspicion in his apartment. He quotes Jean-Luc Godard. He compares his documentary to "the famous Lulu's diary," which is a reference to 1929 film Diary of a Lost Girl.
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