I just love a good documentary. Especially one that has some sinister elements. Z Channel - A Magnificent Obsession has just that.
The story of disturbed, dark and brillant Jerry Harvey and his revolution of the cable channel movie format. This documentary as most focuses on the first hand account and loads of interviews with those who knew Jerry, his first wife, employees, friends and occasional movie star or director. All tell the same story of a most creative and inspired programmer named Jerry.
Before there was HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and the rest, there was Z Channel. The channel for movie enthusiasts who really loved movies, not just the art house movies but all movies. Without Z Channel, the format of cable television today would be much different.
Jerry had the foresight to program movies by blocs, subjects, directors cuts and other innovative programming techniques. His channel inspired many to take another look at films that would otherwise have been overlooked.
Eventually Jerry's demons and obsessions overtook him as he went mad. With the demise of Z Channel, he ultimately murdered his wife and committed suicide.
The film itself is well done, released on 2004, with voice over narrative from Jerry himself. The story is well paced and the use of blurry disturbing images of Los Angeles add to the dark feel of the film. The cameos and insights of Robert Altman, James Woods and Quentin Tarantino are fun too.
Mainly this documentary focuses on the actual movies and why they were/are great. The directors vision, the story, the production all are described in great detail. The focus is squarely on the films and not on Jerry. He is almost a supporting figure. He is portrayed as reclusive, paranoid and ultimately murderous with a single focus in his life which was film.
One negative aspect of the film is that there is no footage of Jerry, instead Jerry is brought to life by accounts from his ex wife, associates and friends. THe director utilizes a lot of photographs ad newspaper clippings to show Jerry.
The death of Z Channel reminded me of the much loved independent book store that eventually succumbs to Barnes and Noble and other corporate giants who have no love or heart.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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