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VHS Love Letter – REWIND THIS!

REWIND THIS! had its world premiere at SXSW and IOC was were!

Josh Johnson‘s ode to the VHS age, Rewind This! (2013) opens with a film enthusiast combing a flea market for VHS tapes, overflowing with the sort of passion any and all global VHS hunters (and film lovers) will immediately recognize. This image sets the tone for the love story to follow, between human film fanatics and the dead format known to Gen X‘ers as VHS. As some of you may recall I interviewed Josh before the film’s completion (here), as he, Carolee Mitchell and Christopher Palmer set out to tackle the subject none had dared tackle before them. And now, seeing the final result, it’s safe to say that their film will go down as a definitive work: an in-depth documentary that dives into the history of VHS, from it’s inception to its demise (Betamax is touched upon but as victor of the format war the spoils go to VHS). We get a glimpse into some incredible VHS collections, owned by people eager to proudly show them off and explain how they acquired their precious and rare finds. Although loaded with local Austin film junkies and VHS collectors, Rewind This! manages to broaden its horizons by traveling the globe: to Japan, where legendary Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii explains his relationship to the format and how he became “spoiled”by it. To Canada, where Exotica director Atom Egoyan explains the magic in discovering the uses you could get out of VHS. Film critics offer perspectives as well, including heavy hitters like Drew McWeeney and James Rocchi, and what emerges is a well-rounded portrait of more than just a format but a moment in time. Having grown up in video stores (and currently employed by one) my favorite moment is director Frank Henenlotter explaining the unique feature on his sublime horror comedy Frankenhooker‘s VHS box: press a button and hear a reanimated prostitute ask you “Wanna date?” This prompts a montage of several other VHS junkies explaining the same feature, and results in the sort of rush of recognition shared by enthusiasts across the world: I personally hit that damn button a million times with every visit to the video store! But beyond my own attachment to VHS, Rewind This! is an essential historical document. Without the VHS boom there’d be no video stores, no developments in home video, no DVR, no making films in the backyard with friends and family, and none of the thousands of future filmmakers mesmerized by aisles of VHS boxes sitting like dreams up on video store shelves. As we inch closer to an all-digital age, where all is streaming with little to no physical media at all, the younger generations of film-aficionados can now fully understand the foundation – because it was during the VHS age that true cinematic passion thrived, and that passion today fuels all their cult/weird/action-packed journeys into the incredible – be they film or interactive gaming or whatever. Like Not Quite Hollywood  (2008) and Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) before it, Rewind This! will whet your appetite for rare films to add to your collection, but with the added bonus of causing you to scour the earth hunting for a VHS player the second you finish watching it. Powerful stuff, and a must see for cinephiles everywhere!

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March 20, 2013   2 Comments

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