One good rule of thumb in
essay-writing is that it should be possible to sum up your topic in one
sentence. The same thing works for film: if a documentary can't be described at
least in general terms in a sentence or two, chances are it lacks focus. Hard-Di-Hood
is a classic example of a film with this problem: I can tell you what's in it,
and it's reasonably interesting stuff, but I find myself hard pressed to tell
you what it's supposed to be about.
Let me unpack that statement a
little bit. Har-Di-Hood introduces us to a handful of women mountain
bikers through a montage of interview clips on a variety of subjects that touch
on biking, competition, and just plain life in general. These women certainly
are colorful personalities, and the sport they're involved in is certainly not
a typical "feminine" activity, so there's plenty of room for exploration of the
subject. But director Nicole Hahn never demonstrates a grasp of the larger
picture. What, exactly, is Har-Di-Hood about? Is it about the personalities
of the women involved in mountain biking? Is it about the sport itself? This is
never clear, and the completely scattershot approach severely limits the film.
If we are intended to understand these women better, it would help to get to
know who they are and what their role is in the sport.
As the film progresses, it
appears to follow a very loose structure of "a week in the life of a
competitive woman mountain biker." That is, the various interviewees discuss
what a typical Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on are like for them... along
with a lot of other topics, including their personal lives and their likes and
dislikes. I would really have appreciated getting more information about the
sport: seeing these women actually ride, and knowing their place in the sport,
would have made the interview footage much more meaningful.
The two most interesting
interviewees are Missy Giove, a champion downhill mountain biker, and Jacquie
Phelan, a retired racer; but no context is given for either of these two exceptional
women. Phelan in particular has some very insightful things to say about what
racing, and teaching other women to ride, has meant to her; I found her
interview clips to be very engaging, and I wanted to know more about her
contribution to the sport. Alas, Har-Di-Hood leaves all these women in
comparative obscurity even after presenting them on film for seventy-eight
One of the things I liked about
Har-Di-Hood is that it manages to avoid the "extreme" attitude that
often goes with mountain biking. For instance, I was prepared to endure a
blaring hard-rock soundtrack, but the music used in Har-Di-Hood is
quite restrained and suitable for a serious documentary. Additionally,
interspersed within the filmed interview segments is a series of loosely
animated sketches with a pleasant, humorous narrator giving us a brief comment
on some aspect of mountain biking, from the proper diet for a biker to how many
bikes a racer needs (the unnamed narrator lists her eight bikes, and wryly
comments that her grandmother thinks she only needs two: one to go up the hill
and one to go down it). All in all, Har-Di-Hood was worth watching, but
I certainly think it could have offered much more.
presented in a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Apart from some
edge enhancement, the image looks good. Colors are natural-looking, and the
print overall appears to be clean, with minimal noise and no flaws showing up
in the image. Contrast is a bit lacking in a few dark indoor scenes, but on the
whole it's a good transfer.
The documentary's Dolby 2.0
soundtrack offers a respectable listening experience. The interviewees' voices
tend to be a little flat, but clear nonetheless. The music portion of the
soundtrack is fairly attractive, and is properly balanced with the other parts
of the soundtrack.
The special features for Har-Di-Hood
are a rather odd assortment. The "bonus footage" section offers nine minutes of
additional interview footage with various riders, mainly focused on the subject
of injuries. "Jacquie's Fanny Pack" offers a four-minute extended sequence of
Jacquie Phelan discussing what she takes along with her on a ride. One very
weird short piece called "Jumping Dildo" consists of footage of young boys
jumping their bikes over a black rubber dildo. (Yes, I did say the special
features were a bit odd.) There's also a selection of music tracks from the
film and a gallery of trailers for other First Run Features films.
We also get a menu that allows
viewing of each of the short animations used in the film independently. While
this isn't an additional feature, per se, it's probably the most interesting
element in the film, and worth watching on its own.
certainly a different kind of film. It has the potential to be an excellent
documentary, along the lines of the outstanding A Sunday in Hell, which
chronicles one of the most important professional road cycling races, but it
lacks the focus necessary to pull everything together. It's a reasonable rental
for someone who's already interested in the subject.