Hot Winter: A Film By Dick Pierre

***1/2

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Hot Winter: A Film By Dick Pierre
"Hot Winter is perhaps a cheese course - too rich and full as a digestif, not portion enough to satisfy."

With VHS artifacts, we get the sense that this is something of a certain vintage - Smith Smitherton's Conscious Cinema introduces Dick Pierre's Hot Winter. If that seems an overwhelming set of layerings and artifice that is not the half of it. Smith Smitherton's show bears the hallmarks of public access cable - to borrow another joke, certainly a specific medium, because it's neither rare nor well-done.

Except Hot Winter (or rather Hot Winter: A Film By Dick Pierre) might be both - a film by Jack Henry Robbins (you'll recognise the surname), it's got a lot going on, and not a lot going on too.

Smitherton's show explains that it's showing us a film that presciently explored the issue of global warming - a small film shot in 1982 in the San Fernando valley. Alarm bells should be ringing for some by now, or at the very least a bell should be ringing - at the end we're told that the film has been edited somewhat for television, at least when it gets a bit racy. A standard tactic, the TV edit, but most don't start with the same sauce - melon-farming won't quite cut it, the edit must be more direct.

What follows, and quickly, is a redacted version of a porn film that never existed - a Princess Bride of girl-on-girl, only it's a different kind of boring that's been left out. A Dr Manly, the not-quite titular hot winter. Nunzio Randazzo (co-writer, previous collaborator with JH Robbins) is a former actor and now body builder and leading climate scientist. There are other more familiar faces - twins Dia And Dahlia Tequali (who you might have seen in Bob Thunder: Internet Assassin or FML) play hitch-hikers, but much (most) of the cast are young jobbing actors who you might recognise from that thing, but all of them are 70-odd roles from being that guy or a you know...

Which works - these are meant to be unknowns - these are faces pretending to be faces you probably don't want to be publicly seen to recognise, even if their output is prodigious. There are actors with more than a thousand credits who've played roles you'd recognise (usually in XXX parodies) but, well, there's a transition that's occured in industry - the early days of San Fernando might have been romanticised (in a way) by Boogie Nights, but even the Marvel Cinematic Universe could take a leaf from an industry where sequels run to scores instead of dozens.

It's entertaining, laugh out loud funny in places, and in others its archness starts to seem a bit off, pretended naivete. The intermittent presence of a boom mike in shot eventually becomes a soundman caught by an awkward pan, and while that's amusing it starts to ask questions of at and with - admittedly, so too does the style of film it cribs from. There's something in pretending to create and then editing around it - and there's certainly nuance in the notion of finding art through excision, bringing outsider art inside, but Robbins isn't that much an outsider. After the credits (not the first set, internal to the film, which somewhat confused a festival audience primed to applause) came the title card - young Jack, at a birthday party perhaps, Susan Sarandon in the background and Tim Robbins singing Amazing Grace. I can't help it - even without Arlington Road, that voice doing anything gives me a certain set of expectations, and so at the end of the film I had a moment of utter disconnect. The fault may well lie more with me.

I've got mixed feelings about Hot Winter, to the extent that I more or less forgot that I had seen it earlier today, but when I did remember it I did so with a sudden fondness. I'll blame the fact that I'm ill (I've lost my voice) but I might be defending a film that deserves less or maligning a film that deserves better. I'd described its opening screening mate Obair La as a sweet dessert, and Hot Winter is perhaps a cheese course - too rich and full as a digestif, not portion enough to satisfy (pun intended), and 'cheese course' scarcely begins to cover its deliberate kitsch.

It's amusing, genuinely so - but the framing device of the cable broadcast, those video artifacts, make this what amounts to a found footage movie. Had I my druthers I might have framed it further - putting perhaps my concern about archness to an ironic distance by hoping for even further intermediary remove - indeed, the act of reviewing has made me consider the piece more fondly than I might and I'm well aware of how frustrating that might be.

As a short film that's a comedy it manages to do all that one would expect - it's amusing, takes advantage of the freedom of the format, sets its stall out, makes its goals clear, and then has fun with them. It's well acted - it's hard to be convincing at not being convincing but the cast manage - and its nested endings do something fascinating. It could well be that it's over-thought, or that I'm over-thinking it, and it could well be that all one needs to do is relax and enjoy it. That sort of sentiment makes me a little tense, however, and anything I might do to resolve that would be redacted. Hot winter isn't slushy, it might even be a little dry - but its contrasts are inviting and entertaining, and ultimately that's probably enough.

Reviewed on: 16 Mar 2018
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One of the first films in American cinema to address climate change was also a hardcore porno, we are told.

Director: Jack Henry Robbins

Writer: Nunzio Randazzo, Jack Henry Robbins

Year: 2016

Runtime: 18 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

GSFF 2018

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