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Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

A movie directed by Xan Cassavetes

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Channel Z - Dark and Wonderful

  • Jan 25, 2006
Rating:
+3
Pros: Fascinating, well documented

Cons: None, wish there was actual footage of Jerry himself

The Bottom Line: Solid documentary - well produced, interesting subject matter.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

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.

Recommended:
Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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About the reviewer

Ranked #1058
A working professional, partner and mother.      I am a tech gadget loving person who enjoys saving time and money in my daily life.      I review computer products, … more
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About this movie

Wiki

From 1974 to 1989, Z Channel graced the Los Angeles airwaves as one of the country's first pay-television stations. Though its subscription rate barely reached into the hundred thousands, the cable station presaged later channels such as Sundance and IFC with an eclectic slate of movie programming that included art-house, foreign, independent, classic, and otherwise rare and/or out-of-the-mainstream films--this at at time when VCRs and cable were still in their infancy and cinephiles had to frequent repertory theaters to quench their cinematic thirsts. Z Channel's visionary approach was the brainchild of its main programmer, Jerry Harvey, who shaped the station's offerings with his encyclopedic knowledge and impeccable taste as well as innovations like director's cuts and theme nights. Unfortunately, the very qualities that made Harvey such a cinematic obsessive also lent themselves to emotional instability, and both he and Z Channel came to an abrupt end when he killed his wife and then himself one trag...
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Details

Director: Xan Cassavetes
Release Date: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: Arts Alliance America (October 11, 2005)
Runtime: 2hr 0min
First to Review
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