Director: Paul Cox
Stars: Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Julia Blake, Terry Norris, Chris Haywood, Norman Kaye
Director Paul Cox’s final work, 2015’s Force of Destiny, opens with a title card dedicating the film to two departed collaborators: actress Wendy Hughes – star of the superb Lonely Hearts as well as Kostas, My First Wife, Lust and Revenge, and Salvation – and Oliver Streeton, art director on Human Touch and title designer on that film, A Woman’s Tale, Innocence, and The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky. This dedication, combined with the film’s subject matter – dramatising Cox’s own brush with liver cancer – and the fact its director died just a year after its release, casts a shadow of mortality over the filmmaker’s swansong effort. Having said that, Cox grappled with matters of mortality throughout his whole career.
Continue reading “Innocence (2000)”
Fred Schepisi was among the first Australian directors of the New Wave era to make the pilgrimage to Hollywood. Following his empathetic portraits of coming of age in a Catholic seminary in The Devil’s Playground and Aboriginal persecution in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Schepisi transitioned into American filmmaking in the early 1980s with such eclectic films as the Western Barbarosa, science-fiction film Iceman, and Plenty, an undeservedly neglected gem in Meryl Streep’s early filmography. In doing so, he helped pave the way for other New Wave Australian directors to work across the pond in subsequent years, including Bruce Beresford with Tender Mercies, George Miller with his segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie, Gillian Armstrong with Mrs Soffel, Peter Weir with Witness, and so on. While Schepisi has made two excellent films in Australia since then – reuniting with Streep on Lindy Chamberlain drama A Cry in the Dark and adapting Patrick White’s The Eye of the Storm – he’s worked predominantly overseas, and his CV is peppered with quality product – Roxanne, The Russia House, Six Degrees of Separation – along with some missteps or misguided attempts at commerce. The two films discussed below, 2001’s Last Orders and 2013’s Words and Pictures, represent both a palpable hit and a peculiar miss on their director’s part.
Continue reading “Aussiewood Double Bill: Last Orders (2001) and Words and Pictures (2013)”
Director: Cherie Nowlan
Stars: Richard Roxburgh, Frances O’Connor, Cate Blanchett
The 1990s were a good time for Australian women filmmakers. On top of the continuing work, both here and abroad, from those who’d emerged or solidified their reputations in the 1980s (e.g. Gillian Armstrong, Nadia Tass, Jane Campion), the decade gifted audiences such films as Proof, Hammers over the Anvil, Floating Life, Love and Other Catastrophes, Love Serenade, Road to Nhill, The Well, Radiance, and Head On, all well-liked if not commercially lucrative ventures from debut or sophomore women feature directors.* Regrettably, some debut or sophomore efforts ended up being swansongs, such as Megan Simpson Huberman with Dating the Enemy, as lamented previously. Cherie Nowlan made her feature debut with Thank God He Met Lizzie in 1997, and while she’d subsequently make only one more feature (2007’s Clubland) she’s been steadily employed in television since, helming episodic television and telemovies both locally (e.g. The Secret Life of Us, Small Claims, Dance Academy, Packed to the Rafters, Underbelly, Rake) and abroad (Gossip Girl, 90210, Grey’s Anatomy, Suits, and the American spin on local crime classic Animal Kingdom).
Continue reading “Thank God He Met Lizzie (1997)”
Director: Warwick Thornton
Stars: Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson, Mitjili Napanangka Gibson, Scott Thornton
Warwick Thornton’s period Western Sweet Country is rolling into Australian cinemas on a wave of fairly unanimous acclaim (not quite Paddington 2 unanimous acclaim, but widespread nonetheless) following a successful festival streak in 2017. Thus it’s timely to revisit Samson & Delilah, the 2009 film which saw Thornton graduate from shorts to features and announced him as a vital Indigenous Australian filmmaker of the same calibre as contemporaries Rachel Perkins and Ivan Sen.
Continue reading “Samson & Delilah (2009)”
Director: Paul Cox
Stars: Norman Kaye, Wendy Hughes, Jon Finlayson, Julia Blake, Jonathan Hardy
First viewing, via DVD
This review serves as a somewhat belated tribute to the late John Clarke, who passed away back in April (make that very belated…). As one of Australia’s sharpest, savviest satirists, Clarke’s reach and legacy were impressive, as noted in many of the more punctual tributes following his death (this one is particularly good). While not his most famous commodities, Clarke was no slouch on the film front, contributing memorable supporting turns in films like Death in Brunswick and Crackerjack and co-writing two features with another late luminary, director Paul Cox, 1982’s Lonely Hearts and 1996’s Lust and Revenge.
Continue reading “Lonely Hearts (1982)”
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.
Continue reading “Nadia Tass double bill: The Big Steal (1990) and Mr Reliable (1996)”
Director: Scott Murray
Stars: Katia Caballero, Keith Smith
First viewing, via VHS
Scott Murray is one of the premier commentators on Australian cinema. He’s best known as editor and contributor to Cinema Papers and Senses of Cinema, as well as for editing, authoring, and contributing to various volumes on Australian film, including one particularly indispensable resource for my work on Down Under Flix, Australian Film 1978–1994. In the 1980s, Murray directed the film Beyond Innocence, also known as Devil in the Flesh. It was both his theatrical feature debut and swansong, though he’d later helm a music documentary, Massenet: His Life and Music.
Continue reading “Beyond Innocence (1989)”