US | 2013 | Directed by Josh Johnson
Logline: A documentary tracing the history and influence, both culturally and commercially, of home video.
An endearing, affectionate, and at times downright geeky look at one of the most influential elements of pop-culture from the 20th Century, especially in terms of how it shaped an industry and defined domestic living, Rewind This! is a documentary aimed squarely at the nostalgic X-Gens, whilst winking at the iGen hipsters. I’m not talking about Internet, this was something invented twenty years earlier. This is the history of the Video Home System, known to Joe Public as VHS!
In 1971 Japanese corporation JVC developed a consumer video recorder for the home. The world was changed forever. VHS and Betamax (the rival - and better quality – format) battled it out for world supremacy during the late 70s, and the cheaper format one because, basically, your average consumer wasn’t that concerned with quality. The early 80s saw the inclusion of cinema-released movies on video tape (albeit panned and scanned), and before you could crack wood, the San Fernando Valley was all over it; VHS was porn industry heaven.
If you’re a Gen-X like myself you’ll remember Jane Fonda’s Workout Video (1983), which revolutionised the exercise regime for housewives. You’ll remember the fantastic cover art that for much of the 80s dominated the shelves of video stores, back when most titles were facing cover out, not spine out. Those wonderful few years when movies on video were inexplicably free of classification and young movie buffs could rent “adult” (R-rated) movies they were restricted from seeing in the theatres.
There will never be another period quite like that of VHS. Rewind This! champions the trashy nature of this global phenomenon. To put it in perspective, DVD quality lasted less than ten years before being superseded by Blu-ray. VHS was king of the viewing platform for nearly thirty years! But for the creatives – I’m talking budding filmmakers here – VHS was accidentally essential. The rewind and pause functions on the VCR machine meant you could study how a big Hollywood or foreign arthouse director and editor constructed a scene. The language of film became ownable.
Rewind This! features many great anecdotes and musings from collectors and aficionados, filmmakers (big and small) and distributors. What was once the most mainstream part of our existence now seems curiously underground. There’s something fascinating about how the retro appeal of VHS continues to flourish, despite all its trappings and limitations.
Analogue recording videotape. Lest we forget? No chance.
Rewind This! screens in Sydney as part of Possible Worlds Festival of American & Canadian Cinema, Saturday 17 August, 6.30pm, Dendy Newtown.