Chris Smith's second documentary is just as impossible to tear yourself away from as his first. 1999's American Movie profiled the lackluster adventures of broke-but-for-his-dream wannabe filmmaker Mark Borchardt as he struggled to create his horror movie Coven. Home Movie differs from American Movie in its restrained tone; no longer do we get the feeling that Smith is poking fun at his subject. If anything, Smith's film is a celebration of quirkiness, eccentricity and certain individuals' tendency to let it all hang out, and damn the consequences.
Home Movie profiles five homeowners, all of whom reside in nontypical dwellings that range from the childlike to the bizarre. There's Linda Beech, a septuagenarian who made her mark on Japanese television before retiring to one of the most remote parts of Hawaii to live in a home constructed in the fork of a gigantic tree (with power generated by a nearby waterfall). There are Bob Walker and Frances Mooney, a pair so devoted to their collection of roving felines that they've restructured their entire lifestyle ' home included ' to better serve the needs of the legions of fur-bearing housecats that roam unhindered throughout virtually every room (and shot). There are the Pedans, a couple who have converted an abandoned missile silo outside Topeka, Kansas, into a "Give Peace a Chance"-style hippified love-in.
There's William Tregle, a gruff and hirsute Louisianian who spends his days trapping alligators from atop his houseboat floating on the bayou. And then there's my personal favorite, the charmingly geeky Ben Skora, who retro-cool suburban Chicago home includes revolving rooms, a robot butler and, at one point, a ski ramp running from the top of his roof to his front yard. Nowhere but in the U.S.A. are you likely to encounter such a wide range of domiciles whose oddities mirror and complement those of their inhabitants.
The snippets of odd folks' lives are doubly compelling for their brevity. Home Movie runs a tight 60 minutes, just enough time for Smith and his subjects to delve into the peculiarities of their home lives and come out looking not like weirdoes but like dyed-in-the-wool Americans, bound and determined to heed their own private notions of what, exactly, makes a house a home.
Smith's film is accompanied by cult oddity "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" by filmmakers John Heyn and Jeff Krulik, a bitchin' trip back in time to 1986 and the glory years of British metal gods Judas Priest. We never get to see the band in concert. Instead, the film's focus is on the parking-lot action outside the venue, replete with mullets, a tripping Steve Perry ringer named Graham, the requisite Camaros, Pabst Blue Ribbon and roving jailbait vixens.