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Movie Review: Not Quite Hollywood at the Glasgow Film Festival 2009

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Not Quite Hollywood is a documentary that might not be suited to the average moviegoer, but anyone more passionate about the art of filmmaking will have a blast with it. Even if the area of cinema that it focuses on isn't all that familiar to you it will serve as a great lesson in it. The film breezes along with a bouncy, energetic pace skipping from interviewee to interviewee succinctly and by the end you feel like you've actually gained genuine knowledge.

Not Quite Hollywood explores Australian exploitation films full of gore, sex, violence, and everything else that comes with it. Various people, fans and filmmakers (including Quentin Tarantino — a sure selling point of the film to potential audiences) alike, chime in with their stories and memories of what it was like to be a part of, and a fan of, an era that influenced the history of cinema.

The film will have you scrabbling to take mental notes because of its whip-fast pace. It's rare for a documentary, particularly one which makes use of "talking heads," to keep the viewer on their toes. In this case it makes the piece move past simply being informative and onto being a heck of a lot of fun.

This is clearly a documentary made with great passion for what it explores; that may be an obvious statement to make, but in the case of Not Quite Hollywood you can really feel the passion burning while you watch. There's so much explored here, and it's presented at such a break-neck pace, that it almost feels like you need a lot longer than it's 100 minute runtime to get the full measure of it. But, nonetheless, as it is, it's a rip-roaring watch, and certainly one of the most purely enjoyable documentaries in a long, long time.

For anyone not steeped in exposure and appreciation of Australian B-genre motion pictures which the film showcases — such as the ever enthusiastic and megafan interviewee Quentin Tarantino — this will probably be a rare, and possibly only, chance to catch a glimpse of some of these films. Movies like Next of Kin, Night of Fear, and Stork will go straight over the head of most modern moviegoers, but for a generation of genre-film lovers these were the silver screen experiences they lived for.  Not Quite Hollywood is a joyous celebration of these works.

The documentary is basically presented in three stages (or three scenes as the clap board throughout present it), following the areas the genre usually examine. The era as a whole was about a trio of elements — sex, gore, and violence. The first "scene" deals with the sexploitation films, those which pushed the boundaries from the first use of full frontal nudity to full blown sex scenes shown explicitly on-screen. The second scene is about the gore and how far filmmakers were willing to go with their horror content. The third is violence, such as fighting and car chases, which is clearly what a lot of the interviewees are most impassioned about. It goes without saying that all these three elements went hand in hand in these B-movies, but it was an informative and interesting approach to explore them in concise stages.

As stated by many during the film, the exploitation era was popular with moviegoers looking for something different than the mainstream, but it died out after the '80s. However, as Tarantino points out, that may be changing. We are seeing a revival in interest in these types of movies, not that new ones will be as shocking as the old ones once were mind you.  Even so, people who probably weren't even born when the B-movie was first around are gaining interest in them. In fact, Not Quite Hollywood could readily be described as an advertisement for this type of film, even if it only really delves into Australian exploitation films, or "Ozploitation" as we're rightly supposed to call it, but it's just so much fun you don't care if you happen to be getting sold something or not.

Not Quite Hollywood goes to prove that documentaries don't have to be serious affairs with nothing but dialogue by relentless expert after relentless expert.  This is a fun, purely enjoyable watch, with input given by people who were actually there when these types of movies were alive and throbbing, even if the mainstream took little notice of them.

Ah, they don't make 'em like they used to.

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