Skip to main content

WONDERLAND

USA, 1997 (MIFF 1999, Urban Myths)

Director: John O'Hagan

Welcome to suburbia ground zero. In 1947, in response to the United Stales' worst housing shortage, architect William Levitt designed the world's first planned community—cheap, mass produced homes that would take his name and become Levittown. This Long Island development, with its row upon row of identical houses painted in calming pastels, became firmly entrenched in the American psyche. For thousands of Gl returning from World War II, here was an affordable dream abode.

A flagpole in the front yard, a television built into the living room wall and a kitchen ready to be filled with the vast array of gadgets that would soon flood the consumer market. Director John O'Hagan takes an oddball and affectionate look at the model for conformity that soon spread around the world. Recalling the quirky documentaries of Errol Morris (Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, MIFF 1998), O'Hagan stocks his film with a cast of loveable, if not more than a touch kooky, characters. The Munsters begin to look like desirable neighbours after you've spent some time with a middle-aged couple obsessed with wood, neurotic plate collectors, a retired champion bowler with a bird fetish (including altar) or the Levittown mystery man who walks his dog exactly nine times each day. Not enough? Then how about a chat with the paunchy, washed up one-hit wonder Eddie Money (anyone remember Two Tickets to Paradise?); the paranoia of Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith; or an aerobicized widower displaying evidence of the poltergeist infestation of her house?

Daily activities like grilling hot dogs, playing bingo and singing the national anthem begin to seem like nefarious rituals. Indeed, O'Hagan digs deep enough to have some longterm residents give him the low down on the early years of wife-swapping parties, hell bent booze blow-outs and Satanism! Miss this at your peril.

See also...

THE CRUISE

An irresistible documentary that follows the exploits of the aforementioned 'Speed' Levitch. His nickname is obviously derived from his urgent, almost amphetamine-fuelled manner and banter, itself a ... More »

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Celebrated architect Frank Gehry s extraordinary building in Northern Spain resembles a gigantic abstract sculpture in titanium, glass and limestone. David Collier's documentary reveals the story ... More »

RENZO PIANO: PIECE BY PIECE

Arguably the most famous architect working today, Renzo Piano is renowned for his work on such prestigious projects as the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Kansai Airport on Osaka Bay in Japan ... More »

The Film of Her

In just twelve months of beautifully edited archival footage, Bill Morrison constructs a sparse and poignant narrative to remind us of how powerfully cinema taught us to see the world afresh. The ... More »

Loafing

Male bonding through competition ensues when four unlikely characters converge on a New York public washroom. A light hearted and outrageously funny look at the veneers of class, money and social ... More »

WACO: THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Not since Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (MIFF 1996), has a documentary delved so deeply, thoroughly and compellingly into an incident thought closed by most. Director William ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director