Nadia Tass double bill: The Big Steal (1990) and Mr Reliable (1996)

Steal poster

Director: Nadia Tass

Stars: Ben Mendelsohn, Claudia Karvan, Steve Bisley, Marshall Napier, Maggie King, Damon Herriman, Angelo D’Angelo

First viewing, via DVD

As someone who doesn’t own a car, I’m fairly oblivious when it comes to cars and car culture. Even so, anyone who’s ever watched a handful of teen movies will recognise the prominent role of cars and the social cachets and personal freedoms they bestow in rites-of-passage films, from Rebel Without a Cause to American Graffiti to Grease to Dazed and Confused and beyond. Even the first act of Transformers hinges largely around protagonist Sam Witwicky’s (Shia LaBeouf) bond with his new car, before switching priorities to pyrotechnics and robots thwacking each other about.

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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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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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