The great, undersung independent filmmaker Jim McBride boasts one of the most peculiar, wide-ranging, and willfully unpredictable bodies of work in American cinema of the past several decades, encompassing a bizarre post-apocalyptic studio film (Glen and Randa), a raunchy teen sex-comedy (Hot Times), and the Richard Gere-starring remake of Godard’s Breathless, among others. But McBride’s most famous film was his debut feature, David Holzman’s Diary – a parody of the cinema-vérité school of documentary filmmaking, Holzman is perhaps the first ‘mockumentary’ on record, and a prescient forecast of navel-gazing first-person cinema. Which makes it all the more fascinating that the two films immediately following this debut found him embracing precisely the personal documentary genre that he parodied so brilliantly in Holzman. And as if this trajectory isn’t strange enough, these two films – My Girlfriend’s Wedding and Pictures From Life’s Other Side – happen to be neglected masterpieces of the form, frankly revealing, culturally perceptive, and inspired in their construction. In their own, more implicit way, they are every bit as aware of the issues and limitations involved with the personal documentary – but in shedding Holzman’s mockumentary conceit they qualify as riskier, more committed films. – Jed Rapfogel, Cineaste Magazine / Anthology Film Archives
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Jan 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Cineaste Magazine: Jim McBride’s Pictures from Life’s Other Side & My Girlfriend’s Wedding
With Jed Rapfogel, Dan Sallitt
Pictures from Life's Other Side by Jim McBride
45 min., 1971
The third film of McBride’s ‘documentary’ trilogy, Pictures follows Jim and Clarissa in a journey across the U.S., waiting for a baby and looking for a place to settle. Crude, witty or plain scenes of everyday life compose a moving portrait of early-70s America – an uncharted country, a generation with no direction home.
My Girlfriend's Wedding by Jim McBride
60 min., 1969
A fascinating profile of McBride’s English girlfriend, Clarissa Ainley. With his camera almost entirely trained on her, McBride explores Clarissa’s life and loves, her feelings about her parents and children, and documents her greencard marriage to a man she has only known for a week. However, as the film progresses, the most revealing truths are about the person behind the camera. Originally intended as a short, it’s a fascinating record of a turbulent time, and highlights the subjective nature of the filmmaking process.
“At the time I made it, I was fond of referring to it as a fiction film, because it was very much my personal idea of what Clarissa was like, and not at all an objective or truthful view.” –J.M.
Jed Rapfogel is an Associate Editor at Cineaste Magazine and a Film Programmer at Anthology Film Archives.
Dan Sallitt is a filmmaker and film writer living in New York. He was the film critic for the Los Angeles Reader, and his writings have appeared in the Chicago Reader, Slate, Wide Angle, Senses of Cinema, and other venues. His movies include Honeymoon (1998) and All the Ships at Sea (2004). He blogs at Thanks for the Use of the Hall.