Here’s how I know Mark Hartley is a good interviewer.
I’ve seen Quentin Tarantino introduce movies live over and over and over in the last 12 years. I’ve seen him introduce in front of huge crowds, in front of small late-night die-hard audiences, in front of industry audiences at premieres, and in front of a group of friends at his house. He’s a storyteller, always, first and foremost, and he loves to set the stage for a movie he’s about to show, getting you so excited and primed so you know exactly what you’re about to get. He’s great at it. I think, as much as filmmaking, film custodianship is a gig he is born to and that he loves. So I’m not surprised to see him here, talking about these movies. I am surprised to see how relaxed and casual and person Quentin’s material in the film is. It’s one of the best interviews about movies I’ve seen with him. He’s on-point with a precision that makes everything very, very funny, but also absolutely informative and true. For Hartley to get the interview he got, he had to be on his game, and the result is just one of the dozens of pleasures in store for anyone lucky enough to behold “Not Quite Hollywood” on the bigscreen right now.
I mean, don’t get me wrong… see it however you can see it. If it’s VOD or DVD or PPV or iTunes or whatever, see it. But if the theatrical option is possible, make the effort. The opening title sequence alone is worth your ticket price, and if you’re not absolutely hooked and ready to see whatever movie could possibly hold all of the insanity you see during the opening titles, then get up, go get your money back, and go find a morgue, because you may not have a pulse. I’d argue that scene for scene, moment for moment, there’s nothing more entertaining playing theaters right now.
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It’s basically “the wild untold story of Ozploitation,” a documentary about the change in culture in the late ’60s that led to a revolution in Australian film. There really was no film industry in Australia as far as the rest of the world was concerned. Things just weren’t exported on any sort of regular basis. I find it frankly sort of amazing that even as late as 1971’s “Wake In Fright” was a film by an American filmmaker who came into Australia to make the movie as an outsider. That’s really all the industry there was at that point, with films like “Age Of Consent” or “Ned Kelly” using Australia as a backdrop. They weren’t Australian films, though. They didn’t have an Australian voice or point of view, and they didn’t reflect what real Australians saw as their own daily experience. “Wake In Fright” is a movie about a guy who goes into the outback on vacation and has a “Deliverance”/”Straw Dogs” style experience, filled with wild stereotypes.
It didn’t help that when they imported films from other countries, the Australian film ministers butchered the films with repressive censorship, right up until 1970, when the “ocker” comedies like “Stork” suddenly offered up a local sensibility in an unfettered way that broke through as a commercial success. “The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie” was another major hit that was purely local-grown. Barry Humphries (who still works as Dame Edna, a character he’s been playing for over 30 years) was the architect of that series, using it to viciously lampoon the “ocker” stereotype, which is sort of the Aussie equivalent of the redneck.
The film looks at individual filmmakers like Tim Burstall, who created the “Alvin Purple” series or John Lamond, whose “Australia After Dark” was a semi-documentary that was an excuse to show as much frank sexuality as possible, outgrossing “Jaws” in Australia as a result. It also explores the way exploitation exploded thanks to the drive-in culture that was a part of Australia’s culture as well. There’s an amazing barrage of nudity at one point in the documentary as Hartley rounds up a dozen actresses who were all known for T&A back in the early ’70s, showing them then and interviewing them now, and it’s an impressive line-up, to say the least.
The stuff that I love most, though, is the crazy horror and action madness that fills out most of the movie. There’s something glorious about an industry that feels like they have nothing to lose, because there’s an abandon that seeps through to every aspect of things. You don’t just get gore… you get outrageous gore. You don’t just get sex… you get deranged sex. You don’t just get stunts… you get a non-stop assault of dudes tempting death on camera. I could just watch this film with an open notebook, making a list of all the great stuff I’m going to have to track down now that I’ve seen clips, and if that’s all the value there was to this movie, that might justify its existence. Thankfully, Hartley has made a movie that plays whether you ever plan to see any of these films or not. I think the story of how the Australian industry went from comatose to vital in the space of just 30 years is an amazing one, and I’m glad “Not Quite Hollywood” exists to make the case for a film culture that has contributed much more than people realize.
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