Home Movie

Chris Smith has walked the fine line between documentation and condescension before, and to me he crossed it in ”American Movie,” his 1999 profile of an aspiring filmmaker who warranted protection from his own naïveté and Smith’s enabling camera. In Home Movie, Smith profiles five extraordinary American homes, and because the owners seem fully aware of the uses and abuses of fame, it’s a pleasure to enjoy their eccentricities.

Then again, the chosen homes — among them a Louisiana houseboat and a Hawaiian tree house — are so unusual that no amount of winking could distract from the inspiring tour. The unironic devotion with which Francis Mooney and Bob Walker have designed their California home to suit the needs of their 11 cats is matched by the ingenuity with which Ben Skora uses his Chicago house as a lab for ongoing electronic tinkering. But we can also empathize with Mrs. Skora — who finally bolted in exasperation.