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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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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Human Touch (2004)

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Director: Paul Cox

Stars: Jacqueline McKenzie, Aaron Blabey, Chris Haywood

First viewing, via SBS On Demand

With the recent passing of director Paul Cox, it seemed appropriate to track down and commemorate one of his films on Down Under Flix. A brief caveat: prior to this week’s film, 2004’s Human Touch, I’d only seen two of Cox’s other works – the arch drama Man of Flowers (1983) and the low-fi period epic Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999) – and both long ago. Suffice to say, this is something I’ll be remedying over my time on this website, but in the meantime it leaves me an ill-informed tributary. For lovely, rounded tributes to the filmmaker, see here and here.

Human Touch stars Jacqueline McKenzie as Anna, the talented lead singer in a choir that’s raising money to visit China. Anna finds a fan in Edward (Chris Haywood), a wealthy gentleman with an open marriage and artistic bent who has dedicated himself to “women, love, and the arts”. Edward pays Anna to pose for some artful nude photographs, and the film traces the ripple effects this has on their respective relationships. In particular, Anna becomes distant from her partner David (Aaron Blabey) and resistant to his touch.

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