LAST year’s supposed Grindhouse double feature was one of Hollywood’s biggest busts. Yet the goodwill previously generated by directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino meant their artistic and financial failure faded with barely a puff of dismay. Kevin Costner or Michael Cimino would be fuming.
Grindhouse was a cinematic experiment in which the two directors each made a film for a double feature that would mimic those shown in America’s grungy, exploitative grindhouse cinemas during the 1970s.
Tarantino produced Death Proof, a homage to the beefy car chase flicks of the 1970s, such as Vanishing Point ; Rodriguez made Planet Terror , a nod to the crazed zombie flicks of that period. They even tricked the features up with ’ 70s- style graphics and split the features with trailers for bogus films by directors Rob Zombie ( The Devil’s Rejects), Eli Roth ( Hostel) and Edgar Wright ( Hot Fuzz).
Unfortunately, America didn’t get the joke and the Grindhouse concept, er, ground to a halt. Death Proof was released here as a stand- alone feature to little interest.
I’d argue Tarantino’s relevance has been diminishing since Pulp Fiction , and Death Proof might be the kick he needs.
The film has its fans and there are some wonderful components, particularly its sexy dialogue, but homage is only fine when it’s not a lifestyle choice. And parodies of exploitation films remain exploitation films.
I love Rodriguez as a director, although again some of his cinematic politics in films such as Sin City are dubious. Planet Terror is so over the top as to be ludicrous. It’s simultaneously fun and absurd.
Both films are released this week as twodisc sets and they are fine examples of the format. The films? Whatever. The special features? Fantastic.
Both are features wherein the process is more interesting than the result. Rodriguez and Tarantino have never been shy about explaining process, indeed Rodriguez’s openness about his craft on all his DVDs is possibly more valuable than a year at film school. He doesn’t hold back on the Planet Terror DVD, including another wonderful 10- minute film school feature ( the terrific one for his $ 7000 film, El Mariachi , is on YouTube). Tarantino is another matter but lovingly so. His enthusiasm, even for the most tangential piffle, is infectious, and this bubbly persona is all over the Death Proof DVD. It’s sort of quaint how animated he is about such a turkey.
I hope I don’t sound too negative about the DVDs because they remain more interesting than most films. Nevertheless, there is one quibble that points to the obvious expectation the Grindhouse doublefeature plus trailers concept will be packaged up later for DVD, as it was intended for the screen.
The guest trailers by Zombie, Wright and Roth aren’t included on these discs. As a teaser for the teasers, though, Rodriguez’s sampler for a film called Machete is in there and it is most amusing, particularly when Rodriguez reveals it was shot as a test for his planned feature.
It’s done with such elan, you can’t be annoyed that these guys use movies as their plaything. THE Australian Oscar winner no one has seen, Eva Orner’s documentary with Alex Gibney, Taxi to the Dark Side , will be released on DVD on April 23. But it is likely it will be only the one- hour version that screens on SBS, not the feature- length version that won Orner and Gibney their Academy Awards for best documentary feature. It will be part of the Why Democracy? documentary box set.
* * * DISC WATCH: Rescue Dawn ( Roadshow, MA15+, $ 29.99) WERNER Herzog continues to amaze in the jungle, this time with his very competent take on a Hollywood thriller, starring Christian Bale.
bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au