So You Like to Watch? Notes on My Girlfriend’s Wedding

12/18/2009 11:22 AM |

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My Girlfriend’s Wedding, Jim McBride‘s film diary of his new love’s green-card marriage, plays this Sunday at Anthology Film Archives. Some notes:

One of the most tragic movies ever made is Objective, Burma! by Raoul Walsh. It’s a beautiful film, now a favorite, but it took me three separate tries to even get through it once. Every time I’d come to a scene of Errol Flynn uncovering a prisoner of war who has been so tortured and abused that he greets his rescuer by wailing, “Kill me Captain. Just kill me!” I’d have to turn it off and start again. Too much.

I felt the same away about My Girlfriend’s Wedding, watching Jim McBride aim the camera at his wounded and confused girlfriend. Too tragic to keep your eyes on. She doesn’t even have the wherewithal to say kill me, she just goes along for the ride, answering questions that damn her, yet—and this is the killer—obviously bright enough to realize it, so she falls deeper down into her own hole. This archive of a lost girl is more about the viewer, though, than the girl. It’s about McBride, about voyeurs and filmmakers and all who get off, a little, on watching this sad girl so well framed as her hair falls in her eyes, and she untethers indelibly in black and white. It’s depressing, self-indicting and entirely recommended.

The film is a somewhat sequel to McBride’s brilliant David Holzman’s Diary (which screened earlier this year at Anthology and will screen again at IFC in March) a fictionalized film with the same theme, and one I would prescribe to all men-in-film, if they’d let me. McBride intended these as companion pieces. Even though Girlfriend’s is a documentary, “At the time I made it I was fond of referring to it as a fiction film, “ he said to Jonathan Rosenbaum in Positif in the 70s, “because it was very much my personal idea of what Clarissa was like, and not at all an objective or truthful view.”

Screening with Girlfriend’s this Sunday at Anthology is Pictures From Life’s Other Side. (Both are part of their “Best of Anthology” series, and a great opportunity to catch these rare films if you missed them at the McBride series in April.) It’s a sequel to the sequel, a roadtrip of filmmaker and pregnant subject looking for a place to settle down. It’s Away We Go without Dave Eggers, Sam Mendes or bad indie rock—so, excellent—and with the addition of a wry preteen son from a previous relationship who’s witnessing his posh counterculture mum’s second, no third, pregnancy. He knows that pregnant she’s a “grump.” He seems to know what he’s in for more that either of his drifting adult companions.