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Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004)

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 »

Director:

Xan Cassavetes

On Disc

at Amazon

1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Robert Altman ... Himself
Vera Carlisle Anderson Vera Carlisle Anderson ... Herself (as Vera Anderson)
C.L. Batten C.L. Batten ... Himself
Jacqueline Bisset ... Herself
Ernest Borgnine ... Himself (archive footage)
Charles Champlin ... Himself
David Chasman David Chasman ... Himself
Stuart Cooper ... Himself
F.X. Feeney F.X. Feeney ... Himself
James B. Harris ... Himself
Jerry Harvey ... Himself (archive footage)
William Holden ... Himself (archive footage)
Don Hyde Don Hyde ... Himself
Henry Jaglom ... Himself
Jim Jarmusch ... Himself
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Storyline

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 Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content, violent images and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 August 2007 (Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Kanazi Z: Mia yperohi emmoni See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was made only after the financing for another film project, a fiction film, partially collapsed. See more »

Quotes

F.X. Feeney: Z Channel had what they call a "zero churn rate" which means that nobody would cancel the service.
See more »

Connections

References The Mark of the Renegade (1951) See more »

Soundtracks

Angel of The Morning
Performed by Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts
Written by Chip Taylor
Courtesy of BMG Records and EMI Music Publishing
Fingers (1978)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Like a film festival in your house every night"
17 September 2004 | by mcnallySee all my reviews

I saw this film at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. The daughter of the late filmmaker John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands, Xan (Alexandra) Cassavetes grew up surrounded by the culture of film. But in her teens, she began to form her own taste, thanks in part to an innovative Los Angeles area cable channel. Z Channel began in 1974, long before there was a Blockbuster Video on every block, and it showed both neglected American films as well as the greats of European cinema. Xan set out to make a straight documentary about the channel, and in the process found a whole other story.

Jerry Harvey was a film geek's film geek. He joined Z Channel in 1980 after programming films for a local art-house cinema. Under Harvey's direction, Z Channel really took off, competing against heavyweights like HBO. While remaining a local treasure, Z Channel's influence was disproportionate to its subscriber base, since so many filmmakers lived in the LA area. Harvey was a friend and champion of such filmmakers as Sam Peckinpah, Henry Jaglom, Michael Cimino, Robert Altman, and Paul Verhoeven, and was one of the first to show "director's cuts" of such misunderstood films as Heaven's Gate, Once Upon A Time In America, and The Wild Bunch. But he was also a deeply troubled man. His obsessive nature fuelled his work, but it often led to bouts of crushing depression. His mood swings culminated in a terrible tragedy in 1988 when he killed his wife and then took his own life. Remembrances from his friends are still fraught with grief and anger, more than fifteen years later.

While at first, I wondered if I were seeing two films (a portrait of Jerry Harvey, and an appreciation of overlooked films), I realized that the beauty of Cassavetes' film is that she's celebrating the life and achievements of Jerry Harvey by talking about some of the films that he brought to her attention through Z Channel. Not his tragic end, but what came before. So often, when a life ends in tragedy or violence, we only remember that part. Sure, you could call Harvey a murderer. But he was also an incredible film lover and filmmaker's advocate, someone who had a wide ranging influence as well as a group of loyal friends who are still reeling from his loss.

Z Channel only lasted about a year after Harvey's death, and the many people interviewed (Quentin Tarantino, James Woods, Theresa Russell, Paul Verhoeven, Robert Altman, and Jacqueline Bisset among them) seem almost as wistful about the death of a certain era in cable television as of their friend Jerry Harvey.

P.S. It seems fitting that I should end my 2004 Toronto International Film Festival experience with a film about a TV channel that director Henry Jaglom described as "like a film festival in your house every night."


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