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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News Roundup September 2016

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

oz

As mentioned in our recent review of Starstruck, Australia has produced an eclectic assortment of musicals. One of the most curious is Oz, Chris Lofven’s 1976 film relocating the plot and action of The Wizard of Oz to an outback setting.

At some point Down Under Flix will take a look at Oz, but until then check out the recent review by Drew Dietsch published at Wikia.

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Liquid Bridge (2003)

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Director: Phillip Avalon

Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Simone Kessell, Jeremy Sims

First viewing, via DVD

Most of what I know about surfing I learned from watching Point Break. And given that surfing is maybe only the eleventh most interesting thing about that delightful film, it’s safe to assume I know very little about surfing. But director Phillip Avalon is well versed in the art and sport of surfing. Liquid Bridge is the former professional surfer turned filmmaker’s feature directing debut, though he’d accumulated a solid number of credits as producer, writer and actor over the years. Fittingly, Avalon’s first major project working in all three of those capacities was another surf-centric flick, 1977’s Summer City, co-starring Mel Gibson and John Jarratt.

In Liquid Bridge, protagonist Nick (Ryan Kwanten) works at his father’s garage and dreams of being a professional surfer like his dad (Tony Bonner), whose pro career was cut tragically short by an accident. He joins his recently widowed friend Dane (Jarrod Dean) on the pro circuit, but when Dane dies of an overdose and drugs are found among their possessions, Nick is wrongly accused of smuggling and put on trial.

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Bondi Tsunami (2004)

Bondi

Director: Rachael Lucas

Stars: Taki Abe, Kaita Abe, Miki Sasaki, Nobuhisa Ikeda

First viewing, via DVD

Bondi Tsunami is the first of two surf-themed movies being covered in September on Down Under Flix. But the word “movie” doesn’t quite convey the very particular flavour, or the somewhat acquired taste, of Rachael Lucas’s flick. The film’s promotional tagline, “An original music video motion picture experience”, does a much better job.

Chilled slacker Shark (Taki Abe) and animated goofball Yuto (Kaita Abe) are two young Japanese men in Australia who embark on a surfing expedition. On the road they pick up two other Japanese travellers, a young woman named Kimiko (Miki Sasaki) and a hitch-hiking stoner-surfer-philosopher (Nobuhisa Ikeda), who join them on their road trip from Bondi Beach, NSW to Surfer’s Paradise, Queensland. There isn’t much more plot to describe, as Bondi Tsunami isn’t all that concerned with narrative: it’s part music video compilation, part travelogue, with amusing vignettes and enigmatic narration thrown in.

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Metal Skin (1994)

EMBIGGEN Metal Skin

Director: Geoffrey Wright

Stars: Aden Young, Ben Mendelsohn, Tara Morice, Nadine Garner, Chantal Contouri

First viewing, via DVD

Metal Skin is director Geoffrey Wright’s follow-up to Romper Stomper, his controversial, barnstorming 1992 film about young neo-Nazis in Melbourne. That film announced both Wright and star Russell Crowe as ferocious, major new talents, scoring the former a Best Director nomination and the latter a Best Actor gong at that year’s AFI Awards.  Wright remained on Melbourne’s mean streets for Metal Skin (and would revisit them again in 2006’s Macbeth) and the city proves once more a dark, seedy muse for the filmmaker.

The film opens with a distressed scream over pitch black, before cutting to a dazed, visibly injured woman wandering through a maze of shipping containers. It’s a fitting opening for a film that feels, at times, like a celluloid manifestation of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. From there, the film plots tragic courses for its four young protagonists: Roslyn (Nadine Garner), the woman glimpsed at film’s start; Dazey (Ben Mendelsohn), her disaffected and cheating boyfriend; Savina (Tara Morice), a troubled young woman who rebels against her devout mother (Chantal Contouri) by dabbling in the dark arts; and Joe (Aden Young), a rodent-faced twentysomething charged with looking after his ill father. When Joe starts a new job alongside Dazey and Savina, he falls for Savina, who is infatuated with Dazey, who uses and discards her, and the film follows the fallout of this damaged love triangle.

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News Roundup August 2016 p. 2

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

Flowers

Adelaide Cinematheque is currently running a retrospective of films directed by the late Paul Cox. Films screened include:

  • Man of Flowers
  • Lust and Revenge
  • Lonely Hearts

The season starts 25 August. For further information, visit Adelaide’s Mercury Cinema website

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Starstruck (1982)

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Director: Gillian Armstrong

Stars: Jo Kennedy, Ross O’Donovan

First viewing, via DVD

Critic Pauline Kael once declared that the label ‘Made in Australia’ “is almost like a Seal of Good Housekeeping on a film. If a young man goes out on a date, it is safe to take a girl to an Australian film”. Kael was clearly not describing The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, but rather the period flicks that constituted much of the Australian New Wave, like Caddie, The Picture Show Man, The Getting of Wisdom, Breaker Morant, Gallipoli, We of the Never Never, and so on. Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career is another film of that vintage, albeit with a feminist restlessness befitting its source material under its finely burnished exterior.

With her 1982 sophomore feature Starstruck, Armstrong trades big dresses for big hair, lace for shiny leggings, and Good Housekeeping for amiable pop-punk. As the director recalled, “I didn’t want to make another period picture about a woman fighting for her identity… I wanted to do something completely different” (David Stratton’s The Avocado Plantation, p. 147). But while the films appear as dissimilar as apples and oranges on first glance, Starstruck’s lead character Jackie is restless and hungry for fame and fortune in much the same way Career’s Sybylla hungers for her autonomy. And like Career, Starstruck is very much a woman’s story, consolidating a preoccupation that would pervade Armstrong’s whole career, as noted in my piece on The Last Days of Chez Nous.

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