Ed Pincus (1938–2013)

Ed Pincus.

ED PINCUS made a number of remarkable documentary films during his career, but the most memorable for me—and for most of the people who followed his work—was Diaries. Between 1971 and 1976, Ed recorded on 16-mm film episodes from his life with his wife, Jane Pincus, their two young children, and the several women with whom Ed had love affairs. It’s also a portrait of a particular era—the early 1970s, or perhaps more accurately, the post ’60s—a time in which a willingness to experiment in life, love, and political expression was still present, but was on the wane in the culture at large.

The title, Diaries, is as unadorned, direct, and honest as the film itself. Appropriate, too, is the title’s inference that the film’s content would normally not be intended for the eyes of outsiders. However, what I experienced when I first saw Diaries was not a sense of voyeurism, but one of privileged intimacy. There is absolutely nothing lurid or sensationalistic about this film. And there is absolutely nothing quite like Diaries in the history of nonfiction filmmaking.

Ed will be missed by those of us he taught at the MIT Film Section. His daring as a filmmaker continues to be inspirational, and his unsentimental yet deeply humane sense of humor will stay with those of us who knew him.

Ross McElwee is a filmmaker currently based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.