1. 40,000 Horsemen (Charles Chauvel, 1940)
2. Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston, 1978)
3. Australia (Baz Luhrman, 2008)
4. They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson, 2018)
5. Alvin Puprple (Tim Burstall, 1973)
6. Dr. Plonk (Rolf de Heer, 2007)
(Ken Hannam, 1977)
Watched a surprisingly excellent copy on YT. sol describes this perfectly as a cross between The Wicker Man
and Wake in Fright
which gave me very high expectations, too high I thought but... astonishingly enough they were met and perhaps even exceeded. A teacher at a remote school starts to delve into the mystery of the disappearance of his predecessor, gets involved with a strange family - a young woman, her daughter and her brother - who live isolated on an island accessible by a gated causeway - and ultimately of course gets much more than he bargained for. It is really hard to say much about this without spoiling what ended up being a quite singular film - despite it's obvious similarities to the two films cited above, especially the first. I doubt it's a coincidence that the island is called Summerfield given that The Wicker Man
took place on Summerisle. And yet it's very much it's own film as well and the references to a rare blood disease and certain other elements point both to some obvious plot points that get sorted out later - and also I think some deeper underlying meanings that might take more viewings to sort out. I never quite figured out the significance of the cannon, for example, apart from it's appearance in some pictures that our protagonist stares at incessantly, trying to figure out a secret. And the ending - what we think is the ending - is powerful and dark, and then....nope, that's enough. See for yourself.
8. AUSSIE SHORTS 19 + 16 + 15 + 11 = 61 minutes
a) Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy
(Tracey Moffatt, 1990)
b) Nice Coloured Girls
(Tracey Moffatt, 1987)
Two experimental shorts about, broadly speaking, Aboriginal-rights issues. The first is a piece of individual/family history, about a middle-aged Aboriginal woman caring for her white mother - or stepmother, or foster mother, it's never made clear - in a deliberately artificial, stagebound setting, and with intro and outro musical numbers performed by an apparently fully assimilated Aboriginal singer, Jimmy Little. The second contrasts recitations of historical records of first encounters - how the white conquerors viewed the natives two centuries ago - with modern-day young Aboriginal women picking up men in bars and essentially exploit their drunkenness and lust. I liked both but the second worked better overall - maybe it's just more accessible for me as an outsider.
c) The Lost Thing
(Andrew Ruhemann/Shaun Tan, 2010) - A nice little piece of animated whimsy, visually feeling to me like a cross between steampunk, Terry Gilliam and Salvador Dali, about a kid who finds a "lost thing" on a beach and befriends it. Feels a little too sentimental - and I often like sentimental - and doesn't add up to much in the end beyond the wonderful visuals, but those are enough to make it worth one watch anyway.
(Nash Edgerton, 2011) - wild, intense little ride about a man and his girlfriend, their fight and the incredible consequences, about which you should know nothing about beyond what I just wrote. Edgerton has a bunch of similar work, I'm going to have to watch more.
9. End Play
(Tim Burstall, 1976)
Very much in the Hitchcockian vein, this to me was an only partially successful thriller, about a couple of brothers, one of them a paraplegic and the other his brother who has come for a visit, and a series of murders that the police apparently think the work of the able-bodied brother - this is all information we get early on, no real spoiler. It evolves into something more interesting and complex, but ultimately didn't work for me beyond the momentary pleasures of "how is he going to get out of this" and the acting by George Mallaby and John Waters as the siblings. It tries to be twisty and unpredictable, but really isn't, and while it starts off with a fairly strong sense of realism it really derails in the third act, in particular
the absolute idiocy of the police in the last scene beggars belief.
(Simon Wincer, 1980)
I guess Robert Powell was one of the go-to guys in the 70s and early 80s when you wanted a magnetic personality, piercing eyes, tall and handsome, and mysterious and radiating power. Mahler, Jesus of Nazareth
and now this film make me wonder why he didn't become a bigger star; even though I don't outright love any of the three, there's no question of the power of his presence in the central role in each film. Here he is the "harlequin", the trickster, a clown perhaps, or a spy, or a con-man, but seemingly a faith healer of some sort who comes into the lives of an unhappy married couple, a politician (David Hemmings) and his wife (Carmen Duncan) when their young son is dying of leukemia. Powell's mysterious curative powers convince the wife - and his magnetism convinces her that his healing hands might be put to other uses for her own sake - but there are mysterious powerful forces playing out against him as well, and this in the end has much of the feel of a conspiracy-thriller, with a Machiavellian power (Broderick Crawford in one of his last roles) who seems to know some things about the trickster/magician and wants none of it in his world. And interesting film, nice looking and generally well-acted that in the end just doesn't quite add up to what it promises in the beginning, feeling all too prosaic by the end despite a rather obvious OOH GOTCHA final shot.
11. The Cars That Ate Paris
(Peter Weir, 1974)
Enjoyable but minor schlock from a director who soon moved out of Ozsploitation territory into prestige productions with variable results. Apparently an inspiration for the Corman production of Death Race 2000
- the wildly modified and painted cars that increasingly take over the rather ridiculous story - and also perhaps on Mad Max
and a lot of other car-centered violent films over the next decade, so we have to give it some points there, but it didn't add up to a lot for me. Basically this young man ends up in the town of Paris, out in the middle of nowhere apparently with just one road that goes through it, after the car he's in crashes and kills his brother, and he slowly finds out that this was apparently no accident and that this weird town makes a living, or several kinds of livings, off the deliberate "accidents". How to get out? And also slowly fractures in the town between young and old - hot-rod enthusiasts and the town fathers - become apparent, leading to a violent finale. It's not a bad concept but just not that well executed, not violent enough or with good enough action or FX to be terribly exciting, and not really funny or meaningful in its satire of car-crazed youth or redneck life either. Very meh.