Diaries (1971 - 1976)

Director: Ed Pincus

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


When first seen in 1980, Pincus’s benchmark film from New England profoundly affected (and sometimes disturbed) viewers. It also strongly influenced the work of filmmakers such as Ross McElwee. Pincus, after shooting his life for five years, distilled twenty-seven hours of footage into a remarkable three-hour-and-twenty-minute epic of domestic melodrama that transforms the ordinary into the poetic.

As is true with other films in this genre (they might be called “transcendent home movies”), wherein children grow up and people die, or go mad, or disappear, a cumulative power derives from the dense weaving of the everyday happenings within the intimacy of a family’s life. Diaries’s characters include Pincus’s daughter Sami and son Ben (ages six and two, respectively, at the film’s start). And, memorably, there is wife Jane, a batik artist and feminist (coauthor of Our Bodies, Our Selves), who suffers the intrusion of her husband’s camera with a panoply of emotions and attitudes. The fact that Pincus includes extended passages with several of his lovers in the midst of depicting the wildly fluctuating vicissitudes of his precarious marriage has disturbed some viewers. Pincus has also been accused of being evasive, of hiding behind the camera.

But in Diaries, the camera (and the person behind it) is anything but invisible. This moral journal courageously reveals its maker through the choices made both in shooting and editing. By including moments that are by turns achingly tender or irritatingly obnoxious, sweetly funny, tediously awkward, or utterly charming, Pincus provides us with a mosaic of mirrors for our own contemplations and revelations. Most people who have taken this journey consider it more than worth the time its formidable length demands. Presented in five parts, the film will include an intermission.

— Robert Hawk

Screening Details


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