AUSTRALIAN MOVIES (survival)

Lantana

Directed by Ray Lawrence. With Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong.

Australia remains a British Colony and continues to celebrate British occupation anniversaries. There is a deep confusion about the British status in the country. Due to the convict past the police have been demonised and it is uncanny that many Australian movies show police as the villain and not the protector. The Survival motto of ‘every person for themselves’ creates fractured units, fear and frustration that is explored in Lantana

Barbara Hershey’s Character Valerie sums up the plot at her Book Launch;

“We don’t know what to feel anymore, we don’t know what’s right or wrong anymore, were confused, a cry of the modern age. We ask what can we believe in? Politicians? hardly,Our Priests?You’d be amazed at how many clients come to see me because they were once (cough from audience) .. Its not suppose to be that way. What then? Our parents? Inot home, a sanctuary? for the privledged few, its become a battle ground, Its not meant to be like that, but it is. Love? Can we believe in love?Feel safe in it, Loving someone means we have to relinquish power,its mutural surrender,but how can this take place, Trust? Trust! Is as vital to human relationships as breath is to air, and just as elusive.

The drama is based of a play ‘Speaking in tongues.’ by Andrew Bovell

The film won seven AACTA Awards including Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay.

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Deep Calm

Deep Calm 1988 directed by Phillip Noyce is the story of a husband and wife sailing through calm waters in an effort to recover from the death of their young son. It is quickly established that the film will deal with their trauma. The film escalates to a gothic horror with the arrival of the sinking ship Orpheus and its sole survivor Hughie.

IMG_3273 John (Sam Neill) and Rae (Nicole Kidman) are separated by Hughie (Billy Zane) and must work through their own quests in order to survive and be re-united. The gothic ship becomes a sinister character that challenges John Ingram, just as Hughie becomes the tormentor of Rae.

When John first goes on board the aptly named ship ‘Orpheus’, a hook flies out and nearly kills him, he is trapped on the broken vessel and must employ all of his nautical nous in order to survive. Rae must use her wits against a paranoid killer and navigate her vessel through the vast sea void.

This film explores many aspects of survival. The couple must survive as a unit against the emotional trauma of their lost son and individually against the forces that threaten to destroy them, psychologically and physically. It is a quest journey for both parties; they must survive, or die.

The movie employs the play of opposites; this technique increases the drama and the intensity of the story. The struggle is between good and bad, the rational and the irrational. The Ingram vessel, Saracen represents order and the rational whereas Hughie and his vessel are debauch and confused. The correct order of things has been upset as John is marooned on the wreck of Orpheus and Hughie is causing havoc on the pristine sailing boat.

Hughie is an intruder to the couple and the calm sea whereas John is validated in the surroundings and his marriage. It is the couple’s expertise in the sea and their genuine link that makes their quest triumphant.

Many Australian dramas explore the theme of a floundering intruder in the environment. The desert, like the sea, challenges the individual who strays into it. Landscape movies often challenge the notion of the ‘civilized’ white person and the ‘empty’ space. In their lost state, their boundaries are tested. ——————————————————-

Wake in Fright

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The failure of many Australian movies in our country has been linked to the fact that we do not like to see ourselves reflected back at us. Many of our actors have had to seek work overseas where more funds are available.

Wake in Fright is a local classic and has been released as a DVD, It still has an occasional screening at Movie Theatres, despite its age. When Wake in Fright was released in 1971, Australian audiences were appalled and the movie failed at the box office. The Cannes audience reaction however was that of awe.

The dark masterpiece was directed by Canadian born, Ted Kotcheff , it was the official Australian entry. The stark realism of the film takes the audience on a disturbing journey of moral decline in the Australian outback.

The realism of the movie is perpetuated through the use of locals rather than actors, no stunt men, dangerous driving, real two-up players and a documented kangaroo shoot. Australian audiences yelled out in the cinema,

“that’s not us.”

Kotcheff shot most of the outback sequences in Broken Hill where men outnumbered women 3 to 1 and the female suicide rate was 5 times the national average. The mateship culture that excluded women and bordered on homoerotic behaviour was present in Broken Hill just as it was portrayed at the Yabba.

An English born teacher, John Grant is lured into a journey to the heart of darkness. As in ‘Apocalypse Now’, the main character is corrupted and stripped of his dignity, as he travels deeper into the debauchery of his own soul. The brutality and larrikin nature of the characters destroys any notion of civilisation as they stumble precariously through a series of misadventures. The landscape, like the characters, is corrosive as the Director soaks each scene in hot colours reminiscent of rust. Sweat and dust texture each scene making the viewer feel hot and thirsty as the characters pour down endless quantities of beer. A feeling of claustrophobia and desperation resonates through out the movie as the landscape traps-in the men of Yabba. Beer is handed from bloke to bloke as a bridging ritual that bonds the man to the group.

Of the three women in the movie, the directors first wife Sylvia Kay is the main female character. Her role is at the fringe of the male cult.The mines of the outback remain a breeding ground for the supremacy of mateship.

The director Ted Kotcheff has made a series of successful movies including First Blood (also known as Rambo: First Blood), Orion, 1982 and Fun with Dick and Jane, Columbia, 1977. The director read the book written by Kenneth Cook (published 1961) and came to Australia to meet the locals. He was confounded by the Australian fight ritual between men and saw it as a desperate need to be touched. “All the little devils are proud of hell”, claims Doc.

The rough culture of this outback movie is able to breed unfettered by law or women. It is a place where sophistication and decency are wrung out in a wash of beer. Aussie audiences hated it. When Bill Collins showed it on Australian TV, he spruiked its merits but relented that he was expecting a lot of hate mail. The film has been released twice at the Cannes movie festival, which is a rare privilege and done only one other time in its history. The movie ran hot in France and stayed in theatres for up to 10 months even though it was in subtitles. According to the director, Martin Scorsese was a big fan.

What is it that the Australian audiences hate about this movie? Is it the actual deaths of kangaroos, the exclusion of women, the glorification of alcoholism, police corruption or the male rape? The French loved it but it’s not about them, it’s about us. The camera takes a deep and penetrating gaze into a bottomless pit of our nature and not a nonchalant glance. The characters in the movie are not Aussie caricatures but rather a raw portrayal of men behaving badly, the two up players are genuine players, real locals line the pubs, real shooters kill animals and the endless wasteland is also a member of the cast.

Wake in Fright was the last movie of Chips Rafferty and the first movie of Jack Thompson. Donald Pleasence’s portrayal of Doc is spellbinding in its sinister mischief-making. It’s been over 40 years since the movie was first released and it has stood the test of time. The movie remains relevant and continues to pickle our notions of ourselves.

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