The Australian New Wave

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In cinema history, the 1970s are most well known for the breakout of American independent filmmakers. By the end of the 1960s, Hollywood studios were at a loss as to how to get audiences into theatres, and so gave the green light to young filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Dennis Hopper and so on. This movement is now held in higher popular esteem than virtually any other, due in large part to the cultural dominance of America across the world.

But the 70s also saw the emergence of an Australian New Wave, with filmmakers like Philip Noyce (Newsfront), Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career), Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant) and Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock) all taking advantage of what were mostly Government funds to create distinctively Australian works to local and overseas acclaim. Though it’s worth noting the reception from overseas was usually more positive than our own shores.

[The Australian new wave] has been extraordinary. It does hold great hope for the future. It has certainly taught the British film industry a thing or two. And as a whingeing Pom, may I say I’m damned jealous.

- Derek Malcolm, film critic for The Guardian, 1980
From David Stratton’s “The Last New Wave(more…)

July 19, 2008 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

The Notorious Salo – Banned Again

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Refused Classification reports that Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Salo has been banned yet again by the wise masters at the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

Having viewed the film myself (it’s freely available at a certain public library, shh…) I have to say there really is no reason this film could not be given an R18+ certificate.

The scenes I found most objectionable were in the “Circle of Shit” sequence, but you can’t ban a work of art purely based on whether or not the scenes depicted are really, really gross. While I wasn’t a fan of the film I don’t think anyone who has the intellectual fortitude to sit and watch a movie with subtitles would find themselves irreversibly damaged by the time the credits roll.

It’s been released in Britain by the prestigious British Film Institute, along with essays on its artistic merits and the censorship troubles it has faced across the world. It’s sad to see that Australia is still stuck in the 1950s when it comes to seeing censorship of art as acceptable, though it probably wasn’t the best idea to submit the film for classification this close to the Bill Henson episode.

If this is all too much for you to handle, it might be better to relax and play some pokies online.

July 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm 3 comments

Hollowmen – Episode 2

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Episode Two of Hollowmen is now available here at the ABC website. (Why is the first episode no longer available? Anyone who pays taxes in Australia paid for the show, why can’t we watch it on demand?) It details the teams reaction to a report that makes good on the Prime Minister’s election promise to not give diplomatic postings in foreign countries as rewards to those who have served the party. Unfortunately, the party has already planned to give such a position to an obnoxious senator (clearly a riff on the Nationals) who has virtually no qualifications whatsoever. (more…)

July 18, 2008 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

The Story of Stuff

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I’ll post some original content soon, I promise!

Until then, have a watch of this: “The Story of Stuff”. It’s supremely interesting.

July 17, 2008 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

Apocalypse Now originally set to shoot in Australia

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If the Australian Government had made a different decision, Apocalypse Now would have been shot in far North Queensland. Undoubtedly this would have changed the entire film, as shooting in the Philippines famously turned out to be a total disaster. The ending also would have been different, as Francis Ford Coppola only decided on the ending to the film while in the Philippines he saw a cow being butchered. This is from David Stratton’s autobiography I Peed on Fellini.

…An altogether larger project which was nearly made in Australia was Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Sometime in 1974, the year I screened the world premiere of Coppola’s magnificent film, The Conversation, at the SFF [Sydney Film Festival], I received a visit from Dean Tavoularis, who was the director’s production designer, and Fred Roos, one of his producers. They told me that Coppola was planning to make a screen version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, updated to the conflict in Vietnam. They wanted to shoot the film in far north Queensland, and they were passing through Sydney touching base with local production companies that might be of assistance. It sounded like an enormously exciting project, but it hinged on the willingness of the Federal Government to make available to the production men and material, including helicopters, from the armed forces. This the Government was, as it turned out, unwilling to do, and so in the end Apocalypse Now was shot, with great difficulty, in the Philippines, where access to military hardware was easier but where the weather proved to be extremely treacherous. The film wasn’t completed until 1979. Over twenty years later, American director Terrence Malick was able to shoot The Thin Red Line, based on the James Jones book about the World War II battle for Guadalcanal, in North Queensland.

July 14, 2008 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

Weekend Music: Warumpi Band – My Island Home

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Is this clip culturally cringe worthy? Or does it make the eyes well up with pride? You decide.

July 13, 2008 at 2:20 pm Leave a comment

Dexter

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My previous post about Hollowmen got me thinking about the way morality is portrayed in some TV shows. I’m not really a fan of Dexter, though I’ve only seen the first episode. It gives us a serial killer who kills other serial killers, and asks us whether this character is moral in his actions, since in the long run he’s saving lives. The problem with this is that Dexter admits to not having any feelings one way or the other, and hence isn’t really a human character at all. Because of this, questions of morality are purely hypothetical. We can still ask the question of whether he’s moral or not, but the answer doesn’t really have any bearing on us personally.

It’s possible to make a comparison with American Psycho, also about a physically attractive, emotionally empty serial killer, and Michael C. Hall’s performance is as good as Christian Bale’s. But Mary Harron’s film (and the book by Bret Easton Ellis) made no question of showing Patrick Bateman’s actions as horrible, and instead focused on how such a disturbed perspective on life could be reached. Dexter was, we are led to believe, “born” a serial killer, and is incapable of having any moral qualms about what he is doing. Factors that have influenced his way of behaviour have as yet not been brought into question. Hopefully this changes as the show progresses (I know I’m way behind. The show only just came to mainstream Australian TV)

Is it okay for a serial killer to be let loose, so long as his serially killing other serial killers? What if he was found out and accepted by the public to be doing a good thing? Would we get copycat serial killers killing serial killers? What would happen if all serial killers decided to just kill serial killers? Who cares? Well, maybe universal life insurance companies.

Of course, it’s just a TV show, but Dexter is seen as one of television’s most fiendishly intelligent new dramas”. I’ve yet to see much more substance than an episode of CSI.

For an examination of a murderer with real ambiguity, check out Jon Jost’s Last Chants For a Slow Dance.

July 11, 2008 at 2:26 pm 3 comments

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