Animal Kingdom made me think about the Australian films of the early 80s – especially my favorites, the first two Mad Max movies. So I watched Not Quite Hollywood, an entertaining documentary about the birth of the Australian movie industry and what Quentin Tarantino, one of the movie’s most enthusiastic talking heads, calls “Ozploitation” films.
The interviewees’ talk about social trends behind the movement isn’t very enlightening (it seems distrust of authority, revolt against the status quo, and sex and drugs ran rampant in Australia in the late ’60s and early ’70s—who knew?). But things get interesting when filmmakers and actors reminisce—mostly fondly and with the same sardonic humor and allergy to self-importance that characterize the films themselves—about how their movies got made. There are entertaining stories about bad behavior on and off the set (two words: Dennis Hopper) and funny potshots at unpopular critics or filmmakers (one director is introduced as “Terry Bourke, producer, director, writer, egotistical bastard.”) The clips that make up most of the film include shots of a baby Nicole Kidman in BMX Bandits, eye-searing action, plenty of the marauding gangs of murderous Aussie bad boys that Tarantino identifies as one of the core elements of Australian exploitation films, and generous lashings of nudity.
Writer-director Mark Hartley, who throws in some title cards and other graphics in the style of the cheesiest of the films, clearly loves these movies, but he covers their dark side too, including sexism on the set and in the films (one actress notes drily: “My breasts were reviewed rather than my performance”), and stunt work so reckless that several people died on the set.
At times, Not Quite Hollywood feels like a too-comprehensive catalog as it describes yet another mediocre movie (“Overly commercial ain’t that easy,” observes one filmmaker). At the same time, it never mentions The Road Warrior, the real masterpiece of the first two Mad Max movies, an oversight I found odd. (The first one, as they point out in this movie, is “just a straight-up ’70s revenge movie” with really good action sequences.) But George Miller’s explanation of how he conceived of and made Mad Max, which he describes as “B movie filmmaking with A movie aspirations,” is a real treat, as is the footage of his revolutionary road movie, whose much-imitated camera angles still have the power to thrill.
“Nobody shoots a car like Ozzies do,” says Tarantino. “They manage to shoot a car with this fetishistic lens that just makes you want to jerk off.”
Elise Nakhnikian has been writing about movies since the best way to learn about them was through alternative weeklies. She is currently the movie reviewer for TimeOFF. She also has her own blog, Girls Can Play, and a Twitter account.