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Over the hump 

Do your best, second half

Two shutouts—Dungeons and Dragons doc The Dungeon Masters was in a tiny 30-seat theatre and Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler won Venice the night before, so the line was literally out to the street—flipped me into two documentaries about subjects I think have little worth: exploitation films and fashion. But we must play the cards the line gods deal us, and besides, the way to open your mind to things is to expose yourself to them. Or something.

I do love movies (and books) about movies, so I was interested in Not Quite Hollywood anyway. But I was confused about the subject matter: I knew it was about Australian films and their effect on the culture there, but what I did not know was it was about a series of films shot in the ’70s and ’80s that would come to be known as “Ozploitation” due to their cheapness, nudity and gore. Quentin Tarantino is the big get (as he was in Zan Cassevettes’ Z Channel from a couple TIFFs back), which considering how much he has stolen from this genre is only right. (In his defense, he admits all of his influences. In my defense, they are terrible and resurrecting them is a waste of my time.) Jamie Lee Curtis pops up briefly, having done an Aussie horror film during her Scream Queen phase, but otherwise it’s mostly cheeky Australian actors, actresses, producers and directors you’ve never heard of (apparently Mel Gibson wasn’t keen to talk about the Mad Max series).

The films themselves are uniformly shit, but those involved have a good sense of humour about it all, and what struck me the most is as in this country, Australian filmmakers have always struggled with their own identity and what constitutes a “local” film and whether it was selling out to try and emulate American cinema. Unlike this country, Australia had two prime ministers in a row during the Ozploitation period that made it a huge part of their rule to support homegrown film and help get it out into the world.

Valentino: The Last Emperor is little more than a Fashion Television/E! True Hollywood Story hybrid from the shallowest corner of hell. (And yes, Jeanne Beker does appear. Thanks for the rage blackout!) It follows the designer through about a year as he designs his annual Paris collection then celebrates his 45th year in fashion, all while rumours persist he will retire. SPOILER ALERT: He does. Surrounded by and comprised of ridiculousness, Valentino yammers on and on about beauty and designing things for women who will really wear them, all the while never speaking to or looking at the models acting as human mannequins in his studio. He changes his mind about huge things on a whim, walks out of the room suddenly, lets his five pugs wreak havoc on the world and pretends not to be gay. No surprise that the movie was directed by Matt Tyrnauer, a longtime staffer at Vanity Fair, which has been celebrating this kind of crap for decades. It will play great in New York and nowhere else.

Back to drama with The Other Man, from UK director Richard Eyre—I got him confused with RichardLove, ActuallyCurtis and was expecting a breezy, soppy comedy, but no, this is the guy behind Notes on a Scandal. You know you’re in for a downer when there are ominous strings from frame one. Laura Linney, who has literally never not had a film at TIFF since I’ve been coming here (thank Christ for small mercies), stars as a woman married to Liam Neeson who’s having an affair with Antonio Banderas. One night she asks her husband if he’s ever thought about sleeping with anyone else, he smartly says no, and then she “muses” that if she were to do that she would walk out the door without taking a thing. Which she does. Neeson finds out about the affair and goes on a murder quest, but just when you’re thinking, “I’ve seen Unfaithful, and Olivier Martinez is way hotter than Mr. Griffith,” the movie takes a left turn it never really earned. It looks good but is boring and not half as clever as it thinks, though the actors give it their all despite shrugger material. For a better Linney-Neeson screen relationship, rent the far superior Kinsey instead.

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