LOVESTRUCK: WRESTLING'S No. 1 FAN
Sue Chuter grew up in Melbourne and developed an interest in professional wrestling in her late teens - the 60s and 70s. Her passion grew and she went to New York in 1992 to attend a massive fan convention and on to Memphis to meet her special hero, wrestler and commentator Jerry 'The King' Lawler. His No. 1 fan, she again met Lawler at Wrestlemania in California in 1996 and when he visited Melbourne in 2001. Chuter has collected thousands of wrestling photos and videos during a life troubled by a broken marriage and estrangement from her daughter Rhonda. She reunites with Rhonda and meets her grandson, but the relationship is destined to break again. Chuter's everlasting love, however, remains wrestling.
Review by Louise Keller:
A no-frills look at a self described eccentric obsessed with wrestling, Lovestruck is a documentary that is as rough and ready as its subject matter. Ten years in the making, film critic & filmmaker Megan Spencer puts the magnifying glass on Sue Chuter, a squat, middle aged woman with oversize glasses, a tattoo or two and a lisp, who likes 'blood and guts' and 'solidly built men'. It is clearly a project fuelled by passion, and while we may not understand the appeal of the sport, it is easy to be swept away by Sue's enthusiasm, as we see first hand what it is like to be a wrestling groupie - or 'Ring Rat'. But it is the juxtaposition of Sue's personal life with her passion that brings the most surprises.
It was at the World Wrestling Championship in Melbourne in 1969 that Sue's obsession - or dedication - began as a teenager, when she began focusing on the sport and the high profile stars whose photos cover the walls of her Melbourne home. She knows them all - from videotapes, wrestling networks and her trips to US for fan conventions and promotions. There is the rough video diary footage she has taken, as she collects photos for her brag book, and the airport meeting with her all-time idol, Memphis wrestler and commentator Jerry Lawler, who she calls 'king, god, heaven, earth and the universe.'
Although most forthcoming when talking about wrestling, there is another subject close to Sue's heart. It is her daughter Rhonda, with whom she has a reunion after an estrangement of 10 years. Some of the details are sketchy - Sue's brief failed marriage and the exact circumstances of the estrangement. Her recent long-distance second marriage to a wrestling fan is a curiosity which leaves us wanting to know more. But Sue's underlying devotion to Rhonda and her new baby son - despite their rocky relationship - is as genuine as the knocks and shocks in the wrestling ring. Stylistically, Lovestruck could be called rather rocky too, as it incorporates different quality video footage. Most appealingly, it has a raw and compelling energy that peeks into the life of a woman who has found happiness through her obsession and credits wrestling for changing her life's outlook.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Sue Chuter, a self described eccentric and weirdo, attracted Megan Spencer's attention one day in a music store, when Spencer remarked on Chuter's wrestling-themed T shirt. Within 24 hours, Spencer had started on a journey to make a documentary about this unusual woman. Spencer, an admirer of docos that are made over a long timespan, took 10 years to complete the film, shot sporadically without Government funding, with the help of keen collaborators. There are even bits of Chuter's own video diary in the film.
Chuter's obsession (or devotion, as wrestler Jerry Lawler prefers to put it) is the starting point but Spencer wants to look further and includes bits of her family life to help create a fuller portrait. I'd have liked even more of this material, such as specific details of why she was estranged from her daughter; it seems to have been triggered by Chuter's first husband, who left them. I also would have liked more footage about the man who comes into Sue's life late in the film - and marries her. A long distance romance born out of a common love of wrestling, but it leaves so many questions hanging.
What we learn about Chuter sometimes comes in oblique ways, like when she is given the task of asking her friends the questions about her wrestling mania. Here we see her proud of her status as someone out on a limb. It may even help define her as a person. We know nothing about how she survives financially (or how she pays for her international travel) but we can see she is determined.
Considering Megan's vocal presence as the interviewer, I would have preferred to have her established visually much earlier than the end of the film. Although in some ways the film has an episodic feel, it certainly doesn't seem like a 10 year project while the rawness and immediacy of the subject - which is usually marginalised - is a good reason to see the film.
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LOVESTRUCK: WRESTLING'S No. 1 FAN (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring Sue Chuter
PRODUCER: Rosemary Blight, Megan Spencer
DIRECTOR: Megan Spencer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Megan Spencer (Vern Sundfors archival footage)
EDITOR: Julie-Anne De Ruvo
MUSIC: Philip Brophy
RUNNING TIME: 52 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Level Four Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: April 5; Melbourne: April 19, 2007