DVD LET­TER­BOX

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - MICHAEL BODEY

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

Quentin Tarantino

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