REVIEW: Not Quite Hollywood

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NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION!
98 Minutes // Australia | USA // Magnolia Pictures
dir. Mark Hartley
Sunday, July 19th, 2009 (theatrical release: July 31st)
with: Brian Trenchard-Smith & Quentin Tarantino

Only fitting that it premiered last year at Australia’s Melbourne International Film Festival, Not Quite Hollywood is a profile on the controversial Australian cinematic scene in the 70’s and 80’s called Ozploitation.

Told through memorable accounts of raunchy, radical, but above all real tales of the wild film making that took place in the Outback, this documentary packs quite a wallop. The film is told through true documentary fashion – like something you’d see on the History Channel, but far more explicit. Entirely composed of violent and vulgar scenes from an assortment of Ozploitation films cut in with interviews from fans of the scene (including Quentin Tarantino, as well as James Wan and Leigh Whannell) as well as direct participants of it (including infamous director Brian Trenchard-Smith), Not Quite Hollywood is ruthless(ly entertaining).

As per the vision of the wave, this film pulls no punches. Although it barely gives insight into many of the people mentioned’s lives and reasons for participating in the first cinematic outburst of Australia, it does touch ground on the reception that the films and the people involved got from their Australian public. However, I would’ve liked to have heard more about how these films impacted the American culture – especially the car oriented films.

Primarily split into three sections – the sexual, the violent, the violently sexual – the film is itself an Ozploitation film. It contains as much blunt disregard in the interviews as the films they talk about contained blunt disregard for safety and rules. These men and women clearly had a burning passion for their work. Watching this film is a rare treat for film fans – it could even be cause for a resurrection in the Ozploitation subgenre.

In the final chapter of the film, the interviewers talk about how reckless and deadly their shooting habits were. All of the films were shot on minimal budgets which – especially in the cases where there was a lot of high-speed car chases – led to them making “unsafe cinema”. Within this, the film also contains bizarre and worrisome tales about a young Dennis Hopper and the worlds craziest stuntman.  In the end, a few people died and many more were injured – all in the name of entertainment. With this, you see the dedication of these film makers and the few regrets they had on their journey to stimulation.

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The best segment of the film would have to be the conversation about Jimmy Wang Yu and how vile he was. In making such grotesque and humiliating cinema, the acclaimed Chinese director/actor went quite over the edge with his patriotism to China and racism towards everyone else. He hated white people and loathed white woman. When it came to having a romantic scene with co-star Rebecca Gilling (also interviewed in the film) he would insist on catching flies and eating them before each take to put her through as much disgust as he would have to go through just being with her. The fact that the director (Brian Trenchard-Smith), as well as the rest of the cast were so calm and generous to Yu in order to bring a more international success to Australian film showed both the morose deprivation and indisputable devotion that these men and women had to land marking Australian cinema. Even if it was somewhat humorous to reflect upon, Mr. Trenchard-Smith does emphatically state that he was one of the two worst people to have ever encountered.

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Being a fan-favourite at TIFF (as well as being apart of the Midnight Madness programme) isn’t an easy feat… especially for a documentary. With flashy title sequences and transitions, glory-shots from hidden gems and great anecdotes, Not Quite Hollywood aims to entertain. Though there are a few bits that won’t appeal to everyone – the first section is about the comedies that sprouted from the scene while the rest of the film is about the more horrific pieces – it should do well to keep its viewer from being terminal.

In addition to the general arousal that the topic creates, there are quite a few interesting facts about the trials many of the stars faced in making the film – being condemned by the church and such – as well as genuine companionship that was clearly initiated by the making of this documentary.

To be facinating, violent, intellectually compelling and sexy is no easy feat. Not Quite Hollywood has single-handedly made me a fan of a subgenre that I’d not heard of until I viewed this film. After 90 minutes, I am energized and excited about divulging into the not-so-historic phenominon that is Ozploitation. With an original and seductive style, gleeful and interesting varied participants, as well as more nudity and violence than you’ll see in any other film, this is the ultimate film for fanatics and aspiring makers alike. [8/10]

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