Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! Reviews
Hilarious and a great guide for hunting down all this Australian madness on DVD/VHS.
It seems to me that a lot of the problem with Australian film--both the Ozploitation described here and the art house Australian film I've reviewed elsewhere--is that it's trying to catch up to American film instead of finding its own way. As I write this, I'm watching the deleted scenes, which are more detailed explanations of some of the films profiled in this documentary, and Graham said, "So, this is what they could have used instead of Quentin Tarantino?" Because while there probably isn't actually fifteen minutes of Quentin Tarantino talking during this movie, it certainly feels as though there is. It's also true that Jamie Lee Curtis, when talking about her experiences making one of the films profiled, says she was asked, "What does it feel like to take jobs away from Australian actors?" It feels as though Australian film felt it needed Jamie Lee Curtis and Quentin Tarantino and what have you to give it legitimacy.
This is not an overview of Australian film. While things like [i]Walkabout[/i] and [i]Picnic at Hanging Rock[/i] get mentioned, mostly what this is concerned with is the kind of thing Corman was making in the US, the kind of grindhouse, drive-in stuff that has influenced Tarantino so. This are movies where naked breasts are shown, where kangaroos are killed for no good reason, where hordes of BMX-riding teenagers, with or without Nicole Kidman, roam the streets. Perhaps the pinnacle of this variety of film, at least as American audiences recognize it, is [i]Mad Max[/i], though the documentary doesn't spend much time on it. There was a time when American actors were imported to create a wider audience, but these were the kinds of American films, too, which were never much shown except at drive-ins and so forth. The whole genre kind of faded with the advent of home video, because there were no more double features and few drive-ins left.
There is a place for examining even the stranger aspects of film's history. Just because these films weren't made with any kind of intellectual examination behind them doesn't mean they don't have any. In fact, I tend to believe that the pop culture of a civilization is almost as important as what it produces about itself deliberately. I think you can learn a great deal about a people by what they enjoy, and certainly someone was watching these movies. Some of them made quite a lot of money in Australia. The problem is that I don't think this documentary has any interest in examining the film in any real detail. The deleted scenes talk more about individual films, but it never seems to go into why any of this sold. And the answer to why certain things get made is, of course, that they sell, so if you don't define that, you can't define why they're made. Okay, the naked stuff doesn't much need an explanation, but what is it about Australia that sells a film with a lengthy kangaroo-hunting scene?
An assertion is made early in the movie that Australia had the strictest censorship of any country in the Western world, but it's only an assertion and I'm not sure I'm buying it. Certainly, it got overturned by the time most of these films were made, because there is a [i]lot[/i] of nudity in this documentary. Oh, it's true that essentially all the swearing in the documentary comes from Quentin Tarantino, but about half the films with clips shown in this movie would not be able to get an American theatrical release these days, because they aren't artistic enough for the art houses and the nudity and so forth would get them an NC-17. But for heaven's sake, they allowed partial nudity on television, whereas we in the US currently have people up in arms because we blur ours instead of using the old-fashioned black bars. I'm curious as to the evolution of Australian film liberation, but I don't think anyone involved in this documentary was, and I think that's to its detriment.
Of course, the film of the United States is probably the most successful film on the international market, so it's understandable that other countries would want to duplicate its successes. However, it would be nice if the film of a country could be seen in its own context. At most, perhaps they could have sought out Nicole Kidman, who is at least in some of these movies, and had her talk about the differences between the two countries. Instead, we get that Tarantino git blathering about how these movies were the greatest ones ever made. Which they weren't; even the people who made them acknowledge that many of them were quite bad. It is true that most movies in general are, but there is a place for bad movies. What would have been more honest is, "I saw what these movies, bad though they were, did right, and I wanted to duplicate that." And James Wan (actually Australian!) comes close to that. However, we don't need a claim that these movies were secretly Great Art, because they weren't and weren't pretending to be. Not everything is.