erasing clouds

Home Movie

review by Erin Hucke

A pet is often a reflection of its owner. That's what the cartoons from the '50s taught me anyway. But how often do you hear a house is reflection of its owner? Even though it's probably truer than the pet cliché, I haven't heard it very often. At least no cartoon has ever told me that.

Home Movie takes a peek into the homes and the lives of five families and individuals who wake up every day in what some may consider unusual surroundings. The third documentary by American Movie Co-Director, Chris Smith, Home Movie encounters real characters who have allowed their homes to become their ideal habitats, rather than giving in to live in a standard rectangular home in suburbia.

The film is divided into five parts, exploring five homes located in five different states. It delves into the one-room floating house on the bayous of Louisiana; the entirely automatic, homemade gadget-filled neighborhood house in Illinois; the underground, former government missile silo in Kansas; the tropical tree house deep in the forests of Hawaii; and the colorful cat-devoted jungle gym of a house in California.

Home Movie is less of a snooping into weird homes, than it is a study of the dedication people have to their self-created surroundings.

The residents give tours of their homes, tell the stories of how they came to live in their homes and, in turn, begin to let their intriguing personalities seep out:

  • The man who makes a living wrasslin' up gators for the film industry and later selling their heads for souvenirs takes Smith on a boat ride through a beautiful sea of floating flowers.
  • The man and woman in Illinois (the film never really explains what their relationship is) who demonstrate the rotating living room and AROK the robot, who seems like he's straight out of The Jetson's.
  • The new age-y couple who tries to defy lingering feelings of cold war panic and tension in their living room with love and Native American flute playing.
  • The aging, American-born, former Japanese television star who takes the perspective that the tree supporting her home actually owns her, rather than claiming ownership of the tree.
  • The couple who cherish their 11 cats so much they estimate they've devalued their home by tens of thousands of dollars with their extensive customization job, complete with kitty catwalks and dead rubber mice on the walls.

Aside from the man and woman in Illinois, who are convinced two hours of hypnosis per week is enough to keep a person's internal organs functioning as if they were permanently in their twenties, the rest of the people seem to be quite "normal." (That is, I believe they are living in this dimension with an adequate number of healthy brain cells.) They are just people who have an extreme love for their extreme home.

At only 60 minutes, the movie ended too quickly, leaving me wanting to see more of the homes and hear more of the residents' stories. By the end of the film, I understood that these people live how they want to live and don't let anything get in the way of that. Not geography, not design, not popular opinion, not money - not anything. And I envy that.

See the official Home Movie website.

Issue 11, October 2002 | next article

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