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Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession back to product details

The Movie Lover
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written by talltale December 21, 2005 - 8:48 PM PST
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Thanks to ZenBones for that wonderful appreciation of an equally wonderful documentary. I probably don't have much to add, but since I already wrote my review, I'll go ahead and post it. Nobody in the move mentions the comparison, but it certainly occurs to me after watching this fine--and for movie-lovers, particularly moving--documentary that Z Channel's Jerry Harvey served America in much the same manner that Henri Langlois of the Cinematheque Francaise served France.

Well, yes, Langlois didn't end his life in a murder/suicide: Harvey had his sick side, but I doubt that many question his terrific love for and understanding of film. His time spent leading Z was a lot shorter than Langlois' at the Cinematheque, but this fellow had an uncanny ability to find unheralded, little-seen gems and then bring them back for further notice, as well as rescuing mistreated movies such as "Heaven's Gate," "Once upon a Time in America," "1900" and "The Leopard," offering them up in original length and format. Despite its two-hour running-time, the documentary--well put together by Xan Cassavetes--is never for a moment boring. We get to know a lot about Harvey, his wives and friends, certain local movie critics and many of the filmmakers Harvey championed and others who cut their teeth on films they watched on "Z" (or later, on tapes made from "Z" showings).

I lived in L.A. in the earliest days of "Z," subscribed and even wrote about it briefly for Los Angeles magazine but moved back to NYC before Z reached its heyday under Harvey. Watching this documentary made me further appreciate and then pine for that lost time. What a gift Harvey gave so many of us, and how sad was his--and his wife's--demise. If he'd been born a decade later, given the many new drugs that came into being, he might have circumvented his untimely and unnecessary end. Whatever: there is a legacy here and this splendid documentary offers it up for our consideration.

A Movie for Movie Lovers
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written by ZenBones September 15, 2005 - 6:06 PM PDT
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful
I was a Z Channel subscriber for over eleven years, and it is supremely responsible for my passion for great movies. It shaped my view of the world by showing me movies from every culture, every era, every genre, and every aspect of humankind, real or imagined. There was no hierarchy on the Z Channel. In one week, one could see everything from "Cries and Whispers" to "Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia" to "Kiss Me Kate" to "Star Trek; The Motion Picture". It wasn't just so everyone in the household could have something to enjoy. It was a gesture of loving permission to open your heart and mind to ALL kinds of movies, and we grateful Z fans did. Xan Cassavetes' excellent film celebrates the diversity and passion that was the Z Channel by weaving countless interviews with filmmakers and writers, with breathtaking clips of dozens of great movies. Many of those great movies are films very few people have ever even heard of, in fact there were even a few movies that I've never heard of and I've seen over 6,000 movies in my lifetime! How thrilling it was to find out that there still are some great movies out there that I've yet to discover (I was beginning to lose hope)! But that was the legacy that Z's creator/programmer Jerry Harvey gave us: a key to a vast kingdom of treasure.

The 'magnificent obsession' of this film's title is that of Jerry Harvey's. He was a manic-depressive with a deep and very dark, cavernous hole inside him that only the magic of movies could fill. His was an artist/poet's mentality, and like most of the great ones, he was unable to cope with the mediocrity of society, or with the imperfections he saw in himself and in others. This film covers his inevitable fall from grace into horrible tragedy, but in context of what happened to his brilliant dream, one can see that he was pushed a little. HBO, Showtime et al, pushed the Z Channel off the airwaves in 1988, and I can safely vouch for all of us former subscribers, that we all died a bit ourselves when that happened (imagine if there was no more GreenCine and you can get an idea). There never will be anything like the Z Channel again, but with any luck, a new generation will discover Xan Cassavetes' film, and be inspired enough by the clips to seek out some of these films and discover an amazing world that they've yet to even imagine.

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(Average 7.27)
66 Votes
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