Aussiewood: King David (1985), Crimes of the Heart (1986), Last Dance (1996)

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With 1982’s Barbarosa, Fred Schepisi became the first of the Australian New Wave directors to make the pilgrimage overseas, kickstarting a trend of Australian directors selling their wares abroad.  George Miller followed with his contribution to 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie, Gillian Armstrong with 1984’s Mrs Soffel, Peter Weir with 1985’s Witness, and so on. The trend continues to this day (seen most recently with David Michod’s Netflix film War Machine and the Spierig Brothers’ Jigsaw), with directors pursuing bigger budgets and diverse opportunities outside the confines of the Australian film industry. This article is the first in an ongoing series that will highlight some of the lesser-known or neglected ventures of Australian filmmakers working overseas. And given my established fascination with Bruce Beresford’s work—as discussed here and here and here—I’ll kick off by looking at three of his lesser known overseas productions: King David (1985), Crimes of the Heart (1986), and Last Dance (1996).

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Ned Kelly (2003)

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Director: Gregor Jordan

Stars: Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Joel Edgerton

Second viewing, via DVD

This week marks the 137th anniversary of Australian outlaw and beloved anti-hero Ned Kelly’s doomed last stand at Glenrowan, Victoria. In June 1880, Kelly and the other young men comprising the Kelly Gang—brother Dan Kelly and friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart—fought police at Glenrowan Inn wearing their now-iconic DIY head and body armour. Byrne, Hart and the younger Kelly were killed during the siege; Kelly himself was wounded and arrested, and would be hung in Melbourne Gaol in November that year.

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This Sporting Life: Dawn! (1979), The Club (1980), and The Coolangatta Gold (1984)

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Sport has long occupied a key place in Australian culture. As noted by Daryl Adair in his essay ‘Making sense of Australian sport history’, the earliest British migrants used sport to maintain links with their country of origin, while subsequent generations helped forge a national identity on the world stage via their sporting prowess. Adair also notes that Australia’s coasts and surf culture have facilitated an array of water-based sports, and in recent years the AFL, among others, has contributed to the reconciliation agenda as a prominent employer of Indigenous athletes. In light of this national pastime, this week Down Under Flix spotlights three sports-centric films from the late 1970s and early 80s.

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Joint Review: The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and Stanley’s Mouth (2015)

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This week’s review pairs two youth-centred Australian films of very different vintages and aesthetics. 1987’s The Year My Voice Broke is a traditionally-shot, rural-set period film (though originally shown on television) directed by John Duigan (Sirens) and produced by Mad Max creator George Miller. The film earned several Australian Film Institute Awards including Best Picture and Director, and a restoration of the film is scheduled to screen as part of next month’s Sydney Film Festival. In contrast, 2015’s Stanley’s Mouth is a non-traditionally shot, micro-budgeted, urban-set contemporary drama from independent director Mike Retter. The film screened at the Adelaide Film Festival in 2015 and is freely available on YouTube in several different formats.

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Beyond Innocence (1989)

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Director: Scott Murray

Stars: Katia Caballero, Keith Smith

First viewing, via VHS

Scott Murray is one of the premier commentators on Australian cinema. He’s best known as editor and contributor to Cinema Papers and Senses of Cinema, as well as for editing, authoring, and contributing to various volumes on Australian film, including one particularly indispensable resource for my work on Down Under Flix, Australian Film 1978–1994. In the 1980s, Murray directed the film Beyond Innocence, also known as Devil in the Flesh. It was both his theatrical feature debut and swansong, though he’d later helm a music documentary, Massenet: His Life and Music.

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Tag team review: In the Wake of the Bounty (1933)

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Director: Charles Chauvel

Stars: Errol Flynn, Mayne Lynton

First viewing, via DVD

Following my earlier tag team reviews of Ghosts … of the Civil Dead (read here) and The Wannabes (read here), this week I team with another friend and contemporary to review the oldest film (thus far) covered on Down Under Flix, 1933’s In the Wake of the Bounty. Directed by Charles Chauvel and starring Errol Flynn, the film chronicles Fletcher Christian’s mutiny against William Bligh on the HMS Bounty and pays an anthropological visit to modern day Pitcairn Island. I’m joined below by Flynn enthusiast and scholar Michael X. Savvas. 

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Final 2000s comedy round-up: Under the Radar (2004), Charlie & Boots (2009), A Few Best Men (2011)

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This week brings one last look at Australian comedies from the noughties, no doubt to some readers’ reflief and other readers’ chagrin. Previous entries grouped films according to theme – romantic comedies, music-centred comedies, small town comedies, with The Wannabes straddling the former two categories – but this week spotlights the three best films (in my opinion anyway) of the series: a sly little comedic thriller, a road movie dramedy headlined by two iconic Australian comedy stars, and a polished mainstream confection.

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