Garth Maxwell's

JackBe Nimble

and Bruno

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  • "A lost classic."

    Museum of Modern Art

  • "Hallucinatory power and psychological refinement... a feverish intensity"

    New York Times

  • "Deeply Warped!
    Excellent performances. At once affecting, funny and horrifying. ★★★★"


  • "A masterpiece!
    Original. Astonishing. Breathtaking images."

    L'Écran Fantastique

  • "This stylish nightmare...
    surreal Gothic horror...
    deliciously hellish sense of humour."

    New Zealand Herald

  • "A heady witches' brew. Haunting, almost Lynchian"

    Leonard Maltin

  • "Radioactive fury...
    extraordinary beauty...
    Jack Be Nimble is a masterclass in tone, form and the power of strong performances"

    Alexandra Heller-Nicholas,
    Association of Women Film Journalists

MoMA Acquisitions

It’s finalised, so I’m thrilled to announce that two of my films have been acquired by The Museum of Modern Art in New York. These are supernatural horror Jack Be Nimble (1993), and experimental documentary Naughty Little Peeptoe (35 mins, 2000). These films are now in MoMA’s permanent collection, to curate, program and preserve.

The great performances of the leads, Alexis Arquette, Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, and Bruno Lawrence (plus a sterling support cast) elevated Jack Be Nimble to another level, which is recognised by this next step in the film’s life. And again I must acknowledge the key crew, Donald Duncan NZCS, Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Chris Neal, Dick Reade, John Gilbert, Viv Mepham, and Robin Murphy, who made real art from my dark vision.

For too long, the film’s reputation was dubious. Was is a too-arty horror? Was it a genre-hopping (read “disqualified”) tragedy with aspirations to comedy? Melodrama? Splatter? None of this uncertainty was helped by botched releases in the United States and also in the UK.

Weirdly, wonderfully, Jack has endured; MoMA calls it “A lost classic.” Looking back to its making, I remember thinking “Yes, I do know what this is, and no, I do not have time to doubt.” That selfbelief, it doesn’t always happen, but this amazing boost I’ve got from MoMA made me realise that I haven’t finished with this story; I’m happy to say I’m underway writing a sequel, set in the present day, thirty years later, for the spectacular Sarah Smuts-Kennedy. Creatures of The Wind - this working title is an homage to the haunting popular hit song Wild is the Wind: “Like a leaf clings to the tree/Oh my darling cling to me/For we're like creatures of the wind/And wild is the wind.”

The Museum’s second acquisition is the 35-minute documentary I made with my departed friend, author and filmmaker Peter Wells in 2000 - Naughty Little Peeptoe - about shoe designer and fetishist Doug George. This film had a unique origin. At the time when I was helping Doug’s sister Beren look after him towards the end of his life, novelist Debra Daley and I were working on a comedy script to lift our spirits and we interviewed Doug about goings-on in a shoe shop, on Debra’s dictaphone.

Neither of us anticipated that Doug would seize the opportunity to regale us with an urgent download of his opinions and his life-story, detailing how shoes became a vehicle through which he could communicate his creativity and his originality, when other avenues seemed closed to him. He knew he was dying of HIV-AIDS and he held nothing back. A few months later, he was gone.

This little tape played on, and in, my mind, and in time I realised it might be possible to use it for a film about Doug, and about language, voice, inspiration, ways of seeing, originality, self-invention, and survival. It was also scandalously funny.

Peter Wells joined me (it was too much for me on my own, too raw) and together we devised a way of working that was light enough to match Doug’s high-speed lateral-thinking: two little digital cameras, and the intimacy of two directors exploring visual possibilities unmoderated by a crew. We deployed our beautiful stand-ins to enact Doug’s story in his absence - dance star Taiaroa Royal created sequences of dreamy eroticism, the Hero Festival Marching Boys became our cast of characters, and our multi-talented friend, director/photographer/lighting assistant and singer Lisa Morrison stepped in to improvise the film’s soundtrack in one unforgettable session at Dick Reade’s sound studio. Editor Matt House matched our images to the framework of Doug’s voice, a jazzy kind of visual two-step. With the belief and care of producer Michele Fantl, in 2000 MF Films released Naughty Little Peeptoe. It screened at the Grey Lynn Community Centre as part of the Hero Festival, with Doug’s family in attendance.

Ron Magliozzi, film curator at MoMA, says “Naughty Little Peeptoe honors its subject’s fulfilling commitment to fetish and offers witty testimony to the durable, liberating spirit of a queer perspective.”

Additionally, Michele and I are over the moon that Peeptoe is being offered in a side-bar in the Derek Jarman: Delphinium Days retrospective co-developed by the Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland (15 June - 14 September) and the City Gallery, Wellington (from early Oct - Feb 2025). From the helter-skelter torrent of fast-cut images in War Requiem, to the slapped-face aesthetic of Jubilee, to the lingering survey of male skin in Sebastiane, many of Jarman’s explorations leave traces felt in Peeptoe. We hope to make it available for streaming thereafter, in NZ, and worldwide.

Garth Maxwell, March 2024

Teaser animation credit, Jenny Reid. @mz_magoo_herself
Art News New Zealand

Jack Be Nimble was featured recently in Art News New Zealand where Museum of Modern Art film curator Ron Magliozzi spoke about how this classic film resonates with today's viewers in a meaningful way:

“What continues to make (Jack Be Nimble) so relevant is its focus on gender roles in the context of the family. The film satirises and rejects traditional, socially sanctioned notions of the family, and suggests there are other models for what family could be.”

“What makes (Jack Be Nimble) work as horror is the way it exaggerates the family theme in gothic ways that are frighteningly close to reality. Toxic masculinity and toxic femininity and the extreme behaviour that results from them - emotional and physical violence, self-harm, bullying, sexism, child abuse, and so on - are themes that fuel and recur in the horror film today.”

- Ron Magliozzi, Film Curator, Museum of Modern Art, NYC. Quoted from ART NEWS New Zealand, Summer issue 2022.