Farewell to Hollywood review

  • 22/05/2014

This is a hard documentary to watch.

I cried like I cried when I watched Dear Zachary. What are you meant to do as you watch a 17-year-old girl die in front of you?

Co-director Regina Diane Nicholson is terminally ill. She loves and adores films, and teams up with seasoned director Henry Corra to tell her story. The story of her death, and her love of cinema. This is their film. Together.

There isn't a Dear Zachary-twist in Farewell to Hollywood, we know her death is coming up within minutes of the film starting. But that doesn't make what's coming any easier to stomach.

Corra is known for pushing a type of documentary making called 'living cinema'. The idea is that the director gets involved and drives the narrative along. It makes for immersive viewing, but when it comes to the relationship between a 50-something year old and a teenager who's dying, it becomes an ethically confusing watch.

They weren't sleeping together (the first issue Corra addressed at a recent Q&A premiere), but as Corra and Nicholson's friendship grows and becomes emotionally intimate, Corra becomes increasingly involved in the rift between the dying teen and her struggling parents.

There are moments of surreal joy in this film - both directors are clearly film nuts, and Corra regularly cuts in famous film scenes relating to what Nicholson is doing on camera. It's a confronting and obvious mechanic that never lets up, but hell, it worked.

The fact is, Farewell to Hollywood is a confronting and unrelenting film with little subtlety... so why not cut to Pulp Fiction now and then?

What's to be gained from watching this film? Maybe it shows that an appreciation for Hollywood celluloid really can help people. Maybe it's an insight into a cancer we all hope and dream we'll never face.

In saying that, the insight sometimes feels like an onslaught. At one stage Corra lingers on a visibly distressed Nicholson, writhing around in pain on her hospital bed. His voice is heard out of shot, talking to a nurse, pleading for a doctor to arrive.

The most important thing Corra captures - and what makes this movie a success - is the lively spirit of one very driven, cool, passionate teenager. A teenager who holds herself together with dignity as her body falls away.

This film is playing at the Documentary Edge Festival.

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source: newshub archive