Monday, September 1, 2014

Jim McBride, "Pictures from Life's Other Side"

I know a woman who went to Europe. Her first stop was Britain. She got off the plane. She was a young bohemian. The Brits searched her stuff. They found her diary in which she fantasized briefly about traveling through Europe earning money as a street musician (that wasn't her plan), and they deported her back to the United States.

In the documentary "Pictures from Life's Other Side", Jim McBride, his pregnant girlfriend and his girlfriend's pre-teen son drive cross country in 1971. They record themselves discussing how police will never find the marijuana hidden in the car. McBride thought that they'd never even suspect they had it. Unless they happened to listen to the tape.

As it happened, there were no cops in the movie.

I had seen McBride's previous movie, David Holzman's Diary. It was different, at least for the time, supposed to be a guy's film diary. But the acting was terrible and everything came across as fake.

This 1971 documentary was just disgusting. They had the ten- or twelve-year-old boy operating the camera, filming his mother naked in the motel room with her naked boyfriend. At one point, McBride spreads his leg and shakes his genitalia at the camera supposedly operated by a child. I hope that this movie was "docufiction" like the other one and that the kid was next door in his own room.

"I'm going to film you fucking," the child says in his English accent.

The boy was the only interesting one in the movie. He calls McBride "Daddy", but explains that he doesn't consider him part of his family. The little fellow pleasantly describes how he'll murder him as soon as he's 14 and big enough to kill a grown man. Kids always have mixed feelings about their mother's boyfriends.

According to the narration, McBride had to replace the battery for his camera, then he burnt out the motor. This saved them film and spared us from having to watch a large section of the trip. He didn't have any kind of spring driven camera as back-up? I would have had a Bell and Howell 70 on hand.

Today they'd be arrested for child abuse, but anyone with a camcorder and no taste could make the same movie today. There was no sign of any talent.

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