"Hi Mom!" Standard DVD review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 1 Old 03-30-09, 06:50 PM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
"Hi Mom!" Standard DVD review

I'm not sure this movie is even reviewable but I'll give it a shot. I found it for $5 in a discount bin
heap at Wal-mart. It was a nostalgic screening since I first saw this movie in 1975 at the
Elgin cinema in NYC in Greenwich Village in my freshman year at NYU. I thought it was funny
then and I still laughed at some of it when I saw it again. But will anyone else like it? I'm not sure.

I guess I should put this movie into it's historical context...

When we think of Brian De Palma today you would classify him as a mainstream Hollywood
director whose features have very slick technical specs. Elaborate camerawork, vivid
photography and big budgets . But he didn't start that way. He was originally part of the "New Hollywood" movement of the sixties. As I've noted before, this was a group of young radical directors who wanted to reject everything "Old Hollywood" stood for including story structure, acting, editing and photography. Glorious Technicolor was out, grain was in. The grittier the better. Cinema verite, avant-garde, post-modernism, hippie yippie revolutions and other mantras dominated this kind of product. In fact they would resent having their movies called product but it was and for a brief period of time it was profitable and dominated the industry. Then it disappeared as quickly as it came because it was linked to the Vietnam war and once that ended there was nothing to unite the factions within the movement. 1975 was the last year I saw hippies in Greenwich Village.

Now within this context, the directors seemed to split into two categories. One group
was part of the cinematic revolution and advocated it's techniques and ideology as
what you might call 'true believers' for the time. Films like "Woodstock", "Easy
Rider", "Sweet Sweetback" and "Joe" would be good examples. Then there
was the other group which might fall into the category of 'radical chic'. They were part
of the counter-culture but also mocked it and had some fun with it's pretentions and
radicalism. Paul Morrissey ("Trash", "Women in Revolt", "Flesh for Frankenstein") and Brian
De Palma were among those that made zany spoofs along these lines. As a result, they tend
to be more fun today as quirky period lampoons over titles like "Sweet Sweetback" which
are so dated and heavy handed they are tough to watch.

Most people think that Martin Scorsese discovered Robert De Niro since he had starring
roles in "Mean Streets" and "Taxi Driver" which launched both their careers. However he actually started with De Palma in two nutty comedies called "Greetings" (1968) and "Hi Mom"
(1969) first.

"Hi Mom!" is a three part movie...if you can even follow it to that extent...which chronicles
the adventures of Jon Rubin (De Niro), a young NYU film student navigating his way through late sixties society. The first part of the story is the funniest and is still quite amusing although
admittedly since I was a NYU film student then too I got a bigger kick out of it than you might.
Still, there are some funny bits of business since De Niro is given a free hand to do some off
the wall Method acting improvisations. Rubin gets a job with a sleazy pornographer played
by Allen Garfield who is very good in the role. He proposes a new type of moviemaking called
"Peep Cinema". Rubin sets up a 16mm camera on a timer aimed at an apartment window
across the street where cute Jennifer Salt lives. His plan is to seduce her and film their
sex from the window. It's very funny and naturally the camera doesn't work properly
so his scheme fails and he's fired. Despite low budget camerawork, the 35mm image looks pretty good considering it was made by non-professionals. This would've made
a good short film without the rest of the feature added on.

The second two parts of the movie are completely different in tone and a bit more difficult
to screen but still have some amusement. Rubin's next job is to join a Black Panther/Reverend Jeremiah Wright type of interactive group theater. This part of the film is shot in 16mm black and white. The image is framed as a square within the 16:9 frame and looks terrible but I think it's supposed to. The concept of this show is to invite a group of pretentious, trendy white liberals to take part in the 'group theater' performance which has the black militants humiliating, stripping, beating and nearly raping them as part of the show. It's called "Be Black Baby" and the agenda is to stick it to the "Man" which in their slang meant caucasians. It goes on too long but at least has an outrageous ending where the white liberals leave the theater and talk about what a wonderful experience it was to be totally degraded and abused. De Niro does a bit of his "you talkin' to me" schtick here that he repeated to greater effect in "Taxi Driver". In fact some of his scenes seem like an audition for the Travis Bickle character.

The third part of the movie returns to 35mm and 16:9 ratio and looks a bit better. Rubin becomes an urban guerilla at night along the lines of Weatherman Bill Ayers, while posing as a middle class family man during the day. The picture ends with his act of leftwing terrorism.

The sound is mono and what you would expect for this type of amateur production. But you can hear the dialogue clearly in most cases. Sometimes the hand held camerawork is so jerky you can't see what's going on but the first and third parts are acceptable. No extras even though all the participants are still around. Maybe they don't want to remember this movie.

So there you have it. A time capsule of primitive, campy, counter-culture filmmaking that
didn't take itself too seriously. This is one of those flicks where you'll either enjoy it
for what it is or hate it and call it a bad home movie. Structurally it's a wreck
but that was the appeal of "New Hollywood" films. Their arguement would be...
"Like man, who says movies have to make sense?" The film was rated X when it
first came out for a brief shot of frontal nudity but it's not erotic in any sense of the word.

If you can find it for $5 you might want to take a chance but don't say you weren't warned. In case you were wondering where the title came from, it's the last line in the film. It has nothing to with anything but that shouldn't surprise you.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 06-15-09 at 12:09 PM.
Richard W. Haines is offline  


"hi , mom!" , review , standard

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