A sequel to My Girlfriend’s Wedding (1969), Jim McBride’s videographed Pictures from Life’s Other Side is, like its predecessor, a cinéma-vérité documentary—well, a paradoxical “home movie,” given that its New World Order family, consisting of McBride, his pregnant English girlfriend, Clarissa, and Joe, her young son from a previous relationship, are in his car heading west. McBride’s film, a key work of U.S. countercultural cinema, is profoundly socially reflective.
In a brilliant passage, Clarissa is driving while Jim, offscreen (in the back seat), interviews Joe, who, sitting next to his mother, is twisted around facing Jim. Joe notes that he doesn’t consider Jim his father, because “you are not,” while Jim, low-key, reminds Joe that he had earlier told him the opposite. “Are you hurt?” Joe asks, astonished, exhibiting the same forthrightness we have come to associate with Clarissa. The fact that we cannot see or hear precisely what behavior of Jim’s Joe is responding to helps make the moment piercing. Not that long ago, Joe could have been described as rudely “talking back”; but, according to the New World Order, he is a human being, rather than parental or other property, and he is “speaking up.” Meanwhile, Clarissa remains silent, fixing her attention on the road; in the Old World Order, she might have felt compelled to intervene, if only in a mediating role.
At one of their pauses, the recognizable form of a home movie especially kicks in. Jim’s camera, showing full frontal nudity, “catches” a very pregnant Clarissa walking outdoors, reclining on grass, and performing gentle, leg-over calisthenics.
The American Film Institute funded McBride’s Pictures and then suppressed it. In the film, McBride can be heard hoping aloud that his film would be shown in the U.S.
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