While a student at N.C. State, I’d often attended the men’s basketball game. After the final buzzer, I’d occasionally say hello to the TV announcers that were seated courtside. A few times, I’d want their autograph, but I didn’t have anything for them to sign except whatever paperback novel I was reading. So I ended up with Marv Albert signing my copy of Franny & Zooey. He gave me a weird look when I held out the book. I hadn’t thought about how John Lennon’s killer had a copy of Catcher In The Rye. Turns out that the artist David Greg Harth spent 20 years having major people sign a book they didn’t write. The Book of Harth documents his art project to get celebrities and notable people to sign a single Bible.
Harth is a concept artist. This is his biggest concept. He’s based in New York City so there’s plenty of opportunities to run into famous people when they visit the Big Apple for talkshows, promotional appearances, art gallery openings or attend celebrity parties. He does travel on occasion. This includes a trip to London to see Julian Assange. A majority of the film takes place during the final days when Harth is doing his best to get the last group of signatures. It’s interesting to see him attempting to do an art project while jostling for space with professional autograph hunters that will be selling their signed photos on eBay that night. What’s interesting is seeing the reaction of people asked to sign a Bible. Most just scribble away like it’s an 8×10 glossy of their biggest film role. A few do ask about the art project element. The most interested pick out a book or passage that means something to them. A couple refuse to sign because they find it sacrilegious to mark up a Bible. Supermodel Naomi Campbell who has a warning for Harth. The strangest thing is seeing how Don McLean’s security team goes nuts on them being on the sidewalk. I’m not sure why the guy behind the song “American Pie” would needs such protection unless they thought he was in the movie.
Seeing how the project took 20 years, there’s a lot of people who signed the Bible that are no longer with us including Burt Reynolds, Agnes Varda, Spaulding Gray, Anthony Bourdain, Peter Fonda and Pete Seegar. It’s good to see them on camera. There are a few people I follow on Twitter that participated including Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap) and Whit Stillman (Metropolitan). Film directors Kevin Smith (Clerks), John Waters (Pink Flamingos) and Paul Schrader (Cat People) talk a bit with filmmaker Pierre Guillet about the project. John Waters jokes about all the odd stuff he’s signed over the years. Schrader has an issue with Donald Trump signing any Bible.
There is a lot of talk about whether this signed Bible is “art.” We see other art projects Harth complete. Harth’s mom wants the project finished so he’ll have time to start a family. Oddly enough the documentary does make the signed Bible art in cinema. We see that this is more than a book signed by a bunch of people. We get a glimpse of their reactions (or non-reactions). There is more than a conceptual art happening on the screen. We get a sense of what Harth went through over the course of 20 years to make this project happen to completion. The Book of Harth is intriguing as it mixes art and celebrity without talking about commerce. You can’t buy Harth’s Bible in the movie theater gift shop.
The Video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. A majority of the film is shot with small videocameras and possibly cellphone cameras. They get tight with Harth in the lines. The resolution varies. The Audio is 5.1 Surround Sound and 2.0 Stereo. You’ll hear what it’s like to hang out for hours against a metal railing to beg a star to sign your Bible. The subtitles are in English and Spanish.
Audio Commentary has director Pierre Guillet and Harth discuss the film and the experience. He talks about being nervous in the opening shot of the Bible being passed to Caitlin Jenner in a SUV limo for fear that it might not come back. Pierre points out how long he’d been tagging along with Harth on this artistic journey. They get into how they weaved a story out of all these little moments.
Deleted Scenes include his encounters with Andrew Cuomo (0:59), Bruce Springsteen (5:37), John Williams (4:29), Julian Assange (5:39), Michael J. Fox (3:42), OJ Simpson (4:43) and Stevie Wonder (4:46). The Bruce Springsteen signing is at the same Barnes and Noble where I met Jackie Chan. Jackie signed his own autobiography for me.
MVDVisual presents The Book of Harth. Directed by Pierre Guillet. Featuring David Greg Harth, Kevin Smith, John Waters, Noam Chomsky, Paul Schrader and a Million Stars. Running Time: 62 minutes. Rating: Not Rated. Release Date: February 6, 2024.