News Roundup November 2016

Down Under Flix is now on Twitter at twitter.com/downunderflix, or @ downunderflix for those in the know. I’ll be using that platform in future to share news, reviews, retrospectives, and screening alerts from other sources, and will focus on my own reviews and features here on the site. However, I had a stockpile of links built up, so here’s one last roundup of classic films and catalogue titles currently in the news.

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This first item is a big deal. David Stratton is one of Australia’s premier film critics, commentators and scholars, and he’s putting together a multi-part documentary on Australian cinema. In a television interview promoting the project during his visit to the Adelaide Film Festival, Stratton talks about Australian film history and highlights some of his favourite local features, including Newsfront, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Gallipoli. Watch the interview here.

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Age of Consent (1969)

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Director: Michael Powell

Stars: James Mason, Helen Mirren, Jack MacGowran, Lonsdale

First viewing, via DVD

In the 1940s, British director Michael Powell, in collaboration with Emeric Pressburger, made The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death, and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, among others. All four are jewels in the crown of British cinema: look at any list of the greatest British films ever made and you’ll find them featured prominently. By way of example, see this list from Time Out and this one by the British Film Institute (this list also features Carry On… Up the Khyber ranked directly above The Killing Fields, making it mandatory reading). While Powell’s 1960 film Peeping Tom also features on these lists and is today held in esteem, this voyeuristic psychological thriller was reviled by critics and cultural commentators on release and the filmmaker was ostracized wholesale from the industry. Later that decade he made two flicks in Australia: the 1966 comedy They’re a Weird Mob and 1969’s Age of Consent.

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Sirens (1993)

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Director: John Duigan

Stars: Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald, Sam Neill, Elle Macpherson, Portia de Rossi, Kate Fischer, Ben Mendelsohn

First viewing, via SBS on Demand

Timing’s a funny thing. I’ve gotten into the habit of planning my line-ups for Down Under Flix a couple of months in advance, and John Duigan’s Sirens (1993) has been on the itinerary for a while now. Little did I anticipate that the same week I watched Sirens, star Kate Fischer would be thrust somewhat dramatically (and invasively) back into the media spotlight. Consequently, more people have probably read about, thought about, and googled Sirens in the last week than in the last decade.

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Dead Heart (1996)

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Director: Nick Parsons

Stars: Bryan Brown, Ernie Dingo, Aaron Pedersen, Angie Milliken

Second viewing, via VHS

I first watched Dead Heart back in 2000, as part of a course at university. In recent days I’ve been thinking back on all the other Australian films I studied at university (in a degree comprising various screen and literature courses, including one specifically on Australian cinema, there were quite a few) and pondering where those films have landed, culturally speaking, in subsequent years. Wake in Fright, which we watched on a scratchy, dog-eared print, has enjoyed a critical and cultural resurgence in recent years and is soon to be adapted for television by the director of Red Dog. Other films, such as A Sunday Too Far Away and Two Hands, have sort of plateaued, remaining constant in their standing. And others like Dead Heart, then only a few years old, have faded from the spotlight and aren’t really part of the cultural conversation. In this particular case, it’s a shame, because Dead Heart is an excellent flick.

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News Roundup October 2016

A roundup of classic films and catalogue titles currently in the news.

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In celebration of Baz Luhrmann’s birthday last month, pop culture site Wikia posted a pair of articles on the Luhrmannator. See Jamie Freedman’s take on Luhrmann’s directorial style and preoccupations, then read Drew Dietsch’s take on the director’s Red Curtain trilogy, aka Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge.

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Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns (2000)

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Director: John Tatoulis

Stars: Lakis Lazopoulos, Zoe Carides, John Bluthal, Claudia Buttazoni

First viewing, via DVD

Contemporary Australia is a multicultural nation. While local films tend to be Anglo-Australian or Indigenous in their preoccupations, a number of films do reflect this multiculturalism. There are films depicting both the migration experience (see, for example, They’re a Weird Mob and Floating Life), the experience of growing up in migrant families (e.g. Head On and Looking for Alibrandi), and the collision of cultures (the recent Down Under). Moreover,  many comedies have milked the ethnic Australian experience for laughs (Alex and Eve, The Wog Boy, Pizza). Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns is another addition to this list.

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Les Patterson Saves the World (1987)

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Director: George Miller

Stars: Barry Humphries, Pamela Stephenson, Andrew Clarke, Hugh Keays-Byrne

First viewing, via SBS on Demand

Down Under Flix will be taking a break for the rest of September, and will resume business in early October. Since the website kicked off with a broad, crude, deliberately cringe-worthy Australian comedy, there’s a nice symmetry in ending this first “season” with another flick of this ilk: 1987’s Les Patterson Saves the World, directed by George Miller of The Man from Snowy River fame (not George Miller of Mad Max and Babe fame).

For those unfamiliar with the character Les Patterson, conceived and performed by Barry Humphries, David Stratton provides an apt thumbnail: “a kind of latter-day Toby Belch, a larger-than-life caricature of a nouveau-rich bon vivant – belching, farting, womanising and chundering his way through life with scant regard for the sensibilities of others” (The Avocado Plantation, pp. 306–307). Miller’s film brought Humphries’ lecherous, vulgar, perpetually intoxicated elder statesman – whom he’d been performing on stage and television for over a decade – to the silver screen.

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