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 ...
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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
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 around 5,500 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. 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, 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. 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.
NOTE: I just caught this tonight at the LA Film Festival, so I don't know if it will have a theatrical release but if it does, GO SEE IT!!!! I know it will eventually be airing on IFC, but seeing clips from such classics as "The Wild Bunch", "Heaven's Gate" and "The Leopard" on a big screen is INCREDIBLE!
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