Not Quite Hollywood
Directed by Mark Hartley
Near the end of Not Quite Hollywood, a thoroughly researched, crisply edited documentary about Ozploitation films of the 70's and 80's, interviewee Quentin Tarantino points out one of the most enjoyable aspects of Australian genre cinema: that inevitable moment when the events occurring onscreen culminate in such a bizarre, over-the-top ridiculous climax that the viewer can barely believe what he is seeing. Not Quite Hollywood is chock-full of just these types of scenes — the wackiest, goriest, most over-sexed moments in Aussie cinema — presented back to back in rapid succession. But this playful retrospective is only half the fun. Between the clips of blood-spurting severed limbs, roaring explosions and unnecessary nudity, the people behind the films prove themselves subjects as entertaining as the work they put forth, relaying their recollections of the era with dry humor and an ironic indifference toward life-threatening stunts and sex spectacles. (One producer/director is interviewed in front of a backdrop of dancing female strippers.)
Ozploitation, a distant relation of that other creatively misspelled genre, Blaxploitation, officially began with the institution of the R-certificate in Australia. Given this new, uncensored stage, Aussie filmmakers began pushing the limits of filmmaking, displaying violence, sex and all-around grotesquery with enthusiasm and, eventually, nationalistic pride. The first part of Not Quite Hollywood documents the rise of the genre and discusses the motivating forces behind it. The prevalence of nudity, for example, was due in large to the sexual liberation and the growth of feminism in the 70s (though many were divided over whether the gratuitous onscreen sex was representative of sexual freedom or Australia's collective horniness). Surprisingly, the documentary also attributes the genre's development to its popularity in foreign regions, where viewers became fascinated with the Other-ness of the vast Australian outback. While films like Long Weekend (which features nature exacting its revenge on a couple of litter-prone campers) held little interest for native Australians, it ignited the curiosity of viewers abroad. In turn, Australian filmmakers were prompted to reflection; eventually, this consciousness helped propel their own cultural exploitation.
The second half of the film narrows the focus to include only the most successful and treasured members of the canon, pausing to reminisce upon, among other things, Dennis Hopper's drunk driving escapades during the filming of Mad Dog Morgan, actor Jimmy Wang Yu's habit of eating flies before kissing his onscreen love interest in The Man from Hong Kong, and the many devastating injuries incurred by stuntman Grant Page. Aside from Dennis Hopper, a number of A-listers are featured for their B-moments in Australian cinema, including Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacey Keach in a movie about a murderous semi-truck driver, Nicole Kidman wearing elbow and knee pads in BMX Bandits and, of course, Mel Gibson in the gearhead fetish flick Mad Max.
Not surprisingly, Not Quite Hollywood's director, Mark Hartley, is a huge fan of Australian genre cinema. However, he is also the man behind the DVD release of several of the Ozploitation films featured in the documentary. Certainly, Not Quite Hollywood functions as a very convincing endorsement for the rental and/or purchase of these films, kind of like a feature-length preview for the release of the "Ozploitation Collection." After seeing the film, I immediately filled my Netflix queue with Aussie genre films. All the same, I was glad for the suggestions. And, I never would have seen so many dazzling acts of sex and violence, or been introduced to so many quirky members of the film industry had I not seen the documentary. It's a tiny, underrepresented niche of the film community, but Hartley brings it back to theaters with the mix of fanaticism, raw humor and lighthearted debate it deserves.
Opens July 31