Sunday, August 10, 2008

MIFF Review: Not Quite Hollywood

Some of the adjectives you're sure to read in relation to Mark Hartley's new documentary about the Australian film industry of the 1970s and '80s are "raucous!", "rip snorting!", "crass!" and "hilarious!", which seem quite apt considering they're same terms you would use to describe the films Not Quite Hollywood documents. Taking a fast-paced and visually inventive look at the "ozploitation" films of years past, the film is filled with male and female nudity, absurd violence, foul language and everything else that the sex and gore-filled films of my country's past pride themselves by revelling in.

Spread across Not Quite Hollywood's 98 minute running time - it feels much longer, but in a good way - are clips from so many movies that I lost count after the first five minutes. Some of the movies discussed are good (Brian Trenchard-Smith's Dead End Drive-In, Richard Franklin's Patrick and some are most definitely not (Phillipe Mora's Howling III: The Marsupials, Simon Wincer's Harlequin), but they're all fascinating to watch and experience how they work into the fabric of not only Australia's film industry, but also our identity as a whole.

It's a testament though to Hartley's direction and, especially, the editing by Hartley, Sarah Edwards and Aussie genre director Jamie Blanks, that even the bad movies provide just entertaining fodder. When there are hundreds of movies to choose from and to condense it down to a core group and then represent those by a mere scene or quick grab is quite a task and they carry it off with aplomb. Others have said the film drags, particularly towards the end, but I really could have kept watching it all night long.

The names that Hartley has assembled is mightily impressive. It's fascinating to hear unabashed ozploitation fan Quentin Tarantino wax lyrical on the films of cult director Brian Trenchard-Smith, listen to Dennis Hopper tell of how he had no idea what he was doing on the Australian set of Mad Dog Morgan, Barry Humphries crack wise about Picnic at Hanging Rock and Jamie Lee Curtis being confused as to why she was being asked to star in an Australian movie with, of all people, Stacy Keach. And that's barely scraping the surface of the names involved, which stretches back into the annals of Australian film both known and obscure. It really is marvelous to watch.

In fact, it really is hard to dig very deep at all in a review such as this because Not Quite Hollywood is just overflowing with trivia, tidbits, history and memories. Granted, the film will have a special place for those who grew up watching these films (or, like me, have started to delve into the genre in recent times thanks to DVD), but I also think the film will work well for those who were completely oblivious to it as well.

Unless you're Bob Ellis, and anyone who has seen this exceptionally crafted and wildly entertaining film will know why. B+


par3182 said...

now will you do that 'razorback' review i've been hassling you about?

i spent most of the 80s being impressed by the amount of films australia was making and then being appalled by the results

Glenn said...

I've adjusted my Quickflix queue so that many titles from the movie are right at the top so, yes, you may get something soon(ish). :P

hazardousfilm said...

Fantastic, saw it at the film festival and have booked tickets already. LOVE IT, WATCH IT it is fast paced and is great for everyone. It is a documentary but more like a film. FANTASTIC!