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)

Starstruck_movie_poster

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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Interview: Graham Caldwell (The Time Guardian)

Graham

It’s not every day you can say you shared an office floor with one of the stars of The Time Guardian, but today I have that pleasure. In a previous job I worked alongside Graham Caldwell, who plays a small role in the 1987 Australian sci-fi actioner. Graham, who essayed a number of other character parts in Australian films during that era, graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the film and his experiences on the Adelaide-based production.

How did your role in The Time Guardian come about? 

I had been working previously with Brian Hannant, the director, on a short film for the National Parks and Wildlife Service filmed on McLaren Flat (playing a hoon driver who casually throws out a cigarette butt as he is transformed into a devil in the rear vision mirror). The short film A Little Bit in All of Us was screened in cinemas prior to main features throughout SA and possibly nationally. Brian really appreciated my work and I was subsequently contacted by my agent for an audition at SA Film Corp studios at Hendon South Australia.

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The Time Guardian (1987)

Time G

Director: Brian Hannant

Stars: Tom Burlinson, Nikki Coghill, Dean Stockwell, Carrie Fisher

First viewing, via DVD

Earlier this week I read that Ian McKellen cried a little while filming a scene on The Hobbit when forced to act alongside photos on a green screen stage rather than other actors, who were filmed separately and incorporated digitally in post-production. Reading that piece and reflecting on the past few months of money misspent at the multiplex seeing films best described as digital minestrone soups – X-Men: Apocalypse, Warcraft, Independence Day: Resurgence – made me unexpectedly receptive to the celluloid tactility of The Time Guardian. I don’t think it’s a great film by any means, but it’s unquestionably a film, with actors and sets and stunts and some grounding in rudimentary physics.

During the 1980s, tax incentives made financing Australian films more attractive to investors, resulting in some heavily Americanized, commercially overt hybrid offerings, like the Indiana Jones-esque Sky Pirates (dubbed by producer John Lamond “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Crap”) and The Return of Captain Invincible, a superhero musical comedy starring Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee. The Time Guardian, as Australia’s first moderately budgeted science-fiction action film, is cut from the same cloth. This shouldn’t be surprising; the film was produced by Antony Ginnane, long a champion of transatlantic-minded, culturally-unspecific genre fare (see Harlequin, Turkey Shoot etc) and funded in large part by Hemdale, the British company behind The Terminator (and clearly wanting more of that Terminator money). But to its credit the film, made at and near Hendon Studios in South Australia, acknowledges and incorporates its Australian origins.

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News Roundup August 2016

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

Dead_end_drive_in_poster

In 1986 Brian Trenchard-Smith, featured in last month’s news roundup, unleashed Dead-End Drive In (1986) upon the world. A dystopian action thriller in the Ozploitation tradition, the film presents a future where delinquent youth are sent to concentration camps, which happen to be drive-in cinemas. The flick is getting a nifty Blu-ray release with all the bells and whistles from cult label Arrow Video.

Read the press release via Dread Central

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The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992)

Last Days

Director: Gillian Armstrong

Stars: Lisa Harrow, Kerry Fox, Miranda Otto, Bruno Ganz, Bill Hunter

First viewing, via SBS on Demand

Twelve years before he acted out the last days of Adolf Hitler in Downfall, Bruno Ganz acted in The Last Days of Chez Nous. And now that low-hanging fruit is out of the way, let’s get on with the review…

In my Radiance review, I lamented the small percentage of women directors in the Australian film industry. Unbeknownst to me, this coincided with the announcement of a great new Screen Australia initiative, Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories and Brilliant Careers, to help fund more female-driven projects. The use of “Brilliant Careers” in the title reflects the continued relevance of Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career to Australian women’s stories on film, as well as Armstrong’s importance as the country’s first major female director. Ever since that film’s success launched her own brilliant career (not to mention Judy Davis’), Armstrong has alternated between local productions (Starstruck, High Tide) and Hollywood fare (Mrs Soffel, Little Women) and found success in both industries. The Last Days of Chez Nous is one of her key Australian works.

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Dad and Dave: On Our Selection (1995)

D&D poster

Director: George Whaley

Stars: Leo McKern, Geoffrey Rush, Joan Sutherland, Noah Taylor, Ray Barrett, Barry Otto, Essie Davis, David Field

First viewing, via DVD

The characters of Dad, Dave, and the rest of the Rudd farming family date back over 100 years. Author Steele Rudd (aka Arthur Hoey Davis) began composing Dad and Dave’s adventures in the late 1800s, and the first 26 stories were collected into the book On Our Selection in 1899. Further adventures followed and the characters went on to appear in other mediums: there was a stage play in the 1910s; a silent film in 1920; a quartet of sound films directed by Ken G. Hall starting in 1932; and a radio series spanning from the late 1930s to early 1950s. While the characters haven’t figured in the cultural landscape too prominently in recent years, there’s no denying their place in popular culture: a large billboard for 1938’s Dad and Dave Goes to Town (which marked the film debut of Peter Finch) stands alongside similar commemorative billboards for Jedda, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Storm Boy, and Crocodile Dundee at Sydney’s Moore Park/Fox Studios entertainment precinct.

DandD

George Whaley’s 1995 film Dad and Dave: On Our Selection revived the characters for late twentieth century audiences, and was designed to celebrate that year’s centenary of Australian cinema, as declared in the film’s end credits. The film adapts a number of Rudd’s stories and chronicles the exploits of the Rudd family and farm. Dad (Leo McKern) runs for state parliament against the slippery JP Riley (Barry Otto); Mother (Joan Sutherland) tends to house and home; oldest son Dave (Geoffrey Rush) falls in love, as does sister Kate (Essie Davis); and wayward son Dan (David Field) proves a miscreant, to name just a few story threads.

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