Sometimes it’s hard to like documentaries. Unlike fiction films which create their own reality, documentaries attempt to manipulate this one and that doesn’t always make for good viewing. It can lead to things like the recent AMERICAN TEEN which are clearly just poorly orchestrated versions of reality, there are boring commentaries on reality that just rope in anyone to become a pundit (these are usually reserved for television and often massacre historical subjects with mundane musings), and there are excessively politicized diatribes like those produced by Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock.
So when I watched NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD it was like a breath of fresh air. Here is a documentary that is many things, all of which should be attractive to a movie fan and none of which are in any way boring, bland or manipulative. This is because NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD is all about the forgotten world of Australian genre films, that heady group of movies that sprung up at the birth of the nation’s film industry and provided a welcome antidote to the arthouse world that was believed to be so necessary to the character of a national film industry.
Collecting an awesome team of commentators, some amazing anecdotes and an unbelievably large collection of under-appreciated genre movies director Mark Hartley takes his audience on a white-knuckle ride through a world where stuntmen set themselves on fire and hurl themselves from clifftops with no safety equipment, where cars are blown up willy nilly and where car crashes have real consequences. It’s so utterly different to the CG-infused world of filmmaking today that the snippets of these films we’re shown are enough to hook you into this madness and enthuse you to seek out more of it.
What’s more, the commentary is great too. This is because all of the people talking were involved in or commentating on these movies at the time. The only exception being Tarantino, whose huge knowledge and enthusiasm for this world is obvious even before he gushes in this documentary. Jamie Lee Curtis and Dennis Hopper are two surprising people to feature in the documentary. I don’t know about you but I never knew they featured in Aussie genre films, one of which Tarantino proudly proclaims could stand up to anything in cinemas today. He’s not wrong.
My friends, whatever your opinions on documentaries, genre films and Quentin Tarantino, I ask you to put your prejudices aside and watch this film. If you don’t already love this underground world of masochistic movies, this will be a real eye-opener and lead you to discover some superb, stupid, but never boring films that you may never have been aware of otherwise.
This article was first posted on March 18, 2009