A documentary on the Z Channel, one of the first pay cable stations in the US, and its programming chief, Jerry Harvey. Debuting in 1974, the LA-based channel's eclectic slate of movies ... See full summary »
A documentary on the Z Channel, one of the first pay cable stations in the US, and its programming chief, Jerry Harvey. Debuting in 1974, the LA-based channel's eclectic slate of movies became a prime example of the untapped power of cable television. Written by
This film was made only after the financing for another film project, a fiction film, partially collapsed. See more »
The "Decline of Western Civilization" was financed by two businessmen from the Valley who wanted to finance a porn movie. They had no idea I was going in to pitch a punk rock movie.
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Watching this extremely interesting, informative and captivating documentary made me jealous of what films were available to LA viewers back in 70s and 80s on the Z Channel, the first American pay-cable station before HBO or Showtime: from Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and "Images" to Fellini, to Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublyov", to Kurosawa's films, to Antonioni's festival, to the full 15 1/2 hours Fassbinder's "Berlin Alexanderplatz", to the restored full version of Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate", to the director's cut of Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America", to Bertolucci's "1900", the 5 hours version. The man behind it, Jerry Harvey was a visionary and a great lover of the European and Independent movies and many famous filmmakers (Robert Altman, Jacqueline Bisset , Jim Jarmusch, Theresa Russell and many more), critics, and former co-workers as well as his first wife and his long-time girlfriend pay their tribute to him and his legacy in the documentary. They share the memories of a channel that had brought the great and unavailable anywhere else films that influenced the new generation of filmmakers, Alexander Payne and Quentin Tarantino are just two names among many. The stories of Jerry Harvey are inter-cut by the clips from the great movies that were first available to the lucky subscribers of the Z Channel. I can't resist in naming few more: "Les Enfants du paradis" (1945) aka "Children of Paradise", "Il Gattopardo" (1963) aka "The Leopard", "Fitccarraldo" (1982) , "Path of Glory", "Turkish Delight" (1973), L'Avventura, (1960), "Professione: reporter" (1975), "La Notte" (1961), "Les Quatre cents coups" (1959) aka "400 Blows" , "Tystnaden" (1963) aka "The Silence", "Le Magnifique" (1973) aka "The Magnificent".
James Woods remembers how much he enjoyed working with Oliver Stone on the movie "Salvador" (1986) and he thinks of the role of Richard Boyle, the journalist whose book the films was based on as his best acting achievement. The film was a flop and was pulled from the theaters in two weeks. Jerry Harvey offered to show it on the Z Channel and it ran there for over a month. The next thing, Woods recalls - the movie received two Academy Awards nominations for the Best Actor in a Leading Role for him and for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Stone and Boyle. Woods is sure that it would not have been possible without Z Channel because nobody would see "Salvador".
Thanks to the documentary, I was able to recognize the movie that I saw many years ago in Moscow and still remember well, I could not only recall the title. I remember that the movie was Dutch, very erotic in the raw, brutal, twisted yet beautiful and passionate way. Watching "Z Channel.." last night, I was happy to instantly recognize "Turks fruit" (1973) aka "Turkish Delight" made by Paul Verhoeven in 1973. There are not very many directors in the world that can create the atmosphere of raw sensuality as well as Verhoeven (of his Dutch period, especially). I am going to try to find "Turkish Delight" and see it again.
The film does not hide the dark side of Harvey who with two sisters was raised by the fundamental catholic father in a strict house. One of his sisters has committed suicide and the other vanished (more likely she took her own life, also). Harvey described his childhood as a cross between "American Graffiti" and "Two Lane Blacktop". For many years, Harvey had fought his mental conditions but in the end, he could not cope with the problems, external - pertaining to selling Z Channel to a company that tried to combine films with sports programming and mental that had always been the part of his life. In April 1988 , Harvey shot to death his second wife Deri Rudolf with the gun who was presented to him by his long time friend, Sam Pekinpah. Then, he killed himself.
Controversial and disturbed, fiercely intelligent, madly in love with the films but sadly having lost the battle to the demons of depression, Harvey's will be remembered for bringing to the viewers the films in their "Director's Cut" and the best foreign and independent films.
In the conclusion I want to mention that the movie was made by Alexandra ("Xan") Cassavetes, the daughter of John Cassavetes, the Godfather of American Independent film-making and his muse Gena Rowlands.
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