leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Slight and whimsical, this documentary by the maker of AMERICAN MOVIE (1999) looks at five unusual dwelling places and the people who live in them. Cajun alligator farmer Bill Tregle lives on the most conventional unconventional dwelling, a houseboat moored in the middle of a Louisiana bayou. California couple Bob Walker and Francis Mooney have outfitted their home with a series of elevated walkways, hidey-holes and entrances cut through walls, all for the benefit of their feline friends. They cheerfully admit they've probably decreased the value of their house by $30,000, and they don't care: In their lives, cats are king. Ed and Diana Pedan converted an abandoned underground missile complex near Topeka, Kans., into an interconnected working and living space. The couple's hippie/New Age inclinations are evident Ed hosts regular drumming circles to help rid the space of its bad energy. But the most remarkable thing about their home is that they've perfectly duplicated a suburban ranch house in an underground bunker that could survive a nuclear blast. Linda Beech, who looks to be in her 70s, lives in a tree house in a remote Hawaiian valley. In the '60s, Beech was an actress in a Japanese sitcom; now she's a grief therapist who draws emotional strength from nature. She cheerfully admits the downsides of her arboreal lair: It's so remote that it's sometimes impossible to reach and so damp that she can't keep photos, because they inevitably succumb to tropical mold. But every window has a stunning rainforest view and a nearby waterfall provides hydroelectric power: Beech couldn't be happier. And then there's Ben Skora, an inveterate tinkerer who spent much of his professional life customizing other people's homes and finally decided to rig up his own house with all the gadgets a boy could want. Doors slide open or iris closed like giant lenses, floors revolve, chairs whirl across the room and kitchen cabinets slide out of hidden recesses, all controlled by buttons on the touch-tone telephone. Smith's point is simple and obvious people's homes are extensions of themselves, and particularly eccentric people have particularly eccentric living spaces but his subjects are charmers. HOME MOVIE is being shown with the cult short HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT (1986), a 15-minute video record of drunk, messed-up metal heads waiting to see Judas Priest at the Capitol Center Arena in Maryland. It's mind blowing.