John Hargreaves double feature: Hoodwink (1981) and Sky Pirates (1986)

John-Hargreaves

Discounting the film Blackfellas, in which he plays a minor role as a racist policeman, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to cover any John Hargreaves films on Down Under Flix. A six time AFI Award nominee (including for Hoodwink) and triple winner, Hargreaves is one of the best leading men to emerge from the Australian New Wave, and I have particular regard for his work in Don’s Party, Long Weekend, and The Odd Angry Shot. Hargreaves was a natural performer: gifted and charismatic, but not unnecessarily flashy; handsome, but not movie star handsome, and slightly crumpled like a creased jacket. He was a quintessential Australian everyman ala Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown, though he’s less familiar to young filmgoers today, partly due to his untimely passing in 1996 at age 50. This article looks at one of Hargreaves’ best films… and one of his other films…

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The Cup (2011)

cup-poster

Director: Simon Wincer

Stars: Stephen Curry, Daniel MacPherson, Brendan Gleeson

First viewing, via DVD

Whether you see it as the race that stops the nation or the race that divides the nation (there’s valid argument for both), and whether it’s the gravitational centre of your day, a chance to go all Caligula, or simply background noise, there’s no shaking that the Melbourne Cup’s a big deal. For non-local readers: it’s a major horse racing event (along the lines of the Kentucky Derby or Royal Ascot) that’s been running in Australia for over 150 years. It’s such as big deal that it’s somewhat surprising the Cup hasn’t featured too prominently in local films, though the prohibitive cost of recreating the event is obviously a factor. Crime comedies Horseplay and The Hard Word (both 2002) spring to mind as recent films to feature the event, albeit in a supporting role. Simon Wincer’s 1983 film Phar Lap, about the titular champion race horse, is probably the best-known film to feature the event. It’s fitting, then, that Wincer takes directing reins of 2011’s The Cup.

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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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