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Great Australian Films


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I'm a big fan of Australian film. I don't know what it is about the country but it seems to really inspire film makers (both native and foreign) to make some of their best work. 70s-80s Oz cinema is particularly striking from the horror of Razorback to the mysticism of Picnic at Hanging Rock and beyond. I'm on the look out for some other gems from the region so what do people recommend (feel free to recommend the well known stuff too). I'm especially interested in a film called Wake in Fright.

Three of my favourites are:*

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The Last Wave - Trailer

A Sydney lawyer has more to worry about than higher-than-average rainfall when he is called upon to defend five Aboriginals in court. Determined to break their silence and discover the truth behind the hidden society he suspects lives in his city, the Lawyer is drawn further, and more intimately, into a prophesy that threatens a new Armageddon, wherein all the continent shall drown.

I've been a fan of Peter Weir for years but I've only just got around to watching, what I now believe, to be his greatest film. Just like Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave is almost impossible to review because it either comes across as hokey or dull and it is neither of those things. It is bewitching, strange, atmospheric, ambiguous and beautiful.

Weir is a master at creating distinct moods that seem totally unique to his films. The Last Wave shares the dream like off-kilter atmosphere of Picnic at Hanging Rock but makes it more foreboding. Ditching the oranges and golds of the Australian outback in favour of cool blues and greys of city life it is hard to think both films are even set in the same country. His handling of the meteorological phenomenons are especially striking. The presence of rain, either visually or aurally, pervades nearly every scene and it becomes a character all unto itself as the Earth expresses its dissatisfaction at humanity. But this isn't another movie about nature reclaiming its land from the arrogant humans but merely a small detail that sits in the background. The film is made up of smaller details and themes that weave into the narrative to create a movie that is impossible to categorise.

Richard Chamberlain plays David Burton, a lawyer sent to represent a group of Aboriginals accused of murdering one of their own. Throughout the film Burton has strange prophetic dreams which relate to these people and the strange weather at the time. Often when White director's tackle the spiritual side of native cultures it comes across as manipulative and patronising but here Weir doesn't attempt to explain it. Whilst the film is clearly from Burton (a white middle class immigrant) the events that occur around him are handled sensitively, seriously and respectfully.

Apologies, this review is just a rambling mess and I've said nothing about the film. I wish my words could do justice to how spellbinding an experience The Last Wave is but I can't. I will just say that you owe it to yourselves to try and seek out a copy as it is a film you experience rather than talk about.

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Long Weekend

When a suburban couple go camping for the weekend at a remote beach, they discover that nature isn't in an accommodating mood.

This Australian low budget movie is quite an effective little thriller. A dislikeable couple take a long weekend camping trip to a deserted beach and in between their marital squabbles they destroy the environment around them until nature takes its revenge (although interestingly it is man who becomes both their undoing). Most of this 'revenge' is suggestive and you are never really sure if they might have just been unfortunate. This use of suggestion is probably the films strongest asset as it is a far more unnerving experience when you don't actually see any of the events happening (

the dead sea cow miraculously working its way up the beach to their camp site is particularly odd and unsettling

). It is quite a novel approach for a film of this type to have characters you don't root for but whilst they are both pretty horrible they both have enough shades of grey to make them belieavable and interesting. The sound is also great: The use of distorted sounds of nature really helps with the sense of a world slightly out of balance. Recommended.

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Celia - Trailer

An imaginative and somewhat disturbed young girl fantasizes about evil creatures and other oddities to mask her insecurities while growing up in rural Australia.

Second Run continue releasing cracking rarely-seen gems from around the world. Celia, released in 1989, is set during the 50s and focusses on the titular character who befriends her new Commie neighbours after the death of her grandma. Played out during the big rabbit cull in Australia the film deals with the communist-capitalist divide from the point of view of a nine year old girl. Whilst potentially quite a standard coming of age drama, Celia blends the fantastical (often framed by a quite disturbing children's story called The Hobbyahs) with quite a dark mean streak, which, to be fair, is present in most children.

* I'm just re-using the reviews I did in the movie watcher's blog.

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I'm not sure how well it fits in with the classics but The Castle is one of my favorite comedy's. Its a simple, well acted story about a working class family making a stand against the government who want to demolish their house to extend an airport.

I've wanted to watch Long Weekend for awhile now after I saw it on Not Quite Hollywood the documentary about Ozploitation movies. Tarentino was raving about it.

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Was going to say 'The Quiet Earth' then realised it's from New Zealand.

Gallipoli, which has already been mentioned.

Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The Year of Living Dangerously (not sure whether it's Australian tbh)

Lantana

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Romper Stomper. Just about the only decent thing Russel Crowe has done

Ahhahaah yeah, he was shit in master & commander, cindarella man, the insider and gladiator wasnt he! :)

Big fan of oz cinema too. Strictly ballroom is one of my faves, as is the gods must be crazy, the quiet earth (close enough) and Kenny.

theres also a good documentary called bra boys about the gang mentality of sydneys surf culture.

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Muriel's Wedding; it's probably the best movie ever with the best soundtrack ever to boot. A perfect tale of love, friendship and self-discovery with some wonderful performances and the aforementioned soundtrack. :)

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Thanks for all the suggestions so far. All of them are good too (I've not seen Black Balloon so I'm going to add that to the list).

I've also recently ordered:

The Interview

The Navigator: A Mediaeval Odyssey

Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds

Anybody seen these? I think it was Mash that recommended Navigator a couple of years ago.

:(

:) yeah it was probably me. No one else seems to have heard of it. Shame it was marketed all wrong.

it's not a time travel film!

look forward to reading your thoughts about it.

Also, suprised no ones mentioned Mad Max 2.

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Oh, Wolf Creek is in my top 5 horror movies of the last decade. That's Oz.

Seriously? I don't know much about horror films to be honest, but I watched that and thought it was a bit shit. Mind you, all horror films might be crappy for all I know, they're not really my thing.

I love The Club, it's a comedy about an Aussie rules football club. But what I really want to know is this. Can anyone tell me the name of an Aussie film I saw about a woman who had suffered some sort of devastating stroke or something, and then whilst her and her carer are

at a cliff for some reason, she pushes the carer off?

I only half watched it but remember that bit being really shocking, and I'd like to give it a proper watch.

I also saw a cracking film about a guy who teaches a class of weirdos how to put a play on, I wish I could remember what that's called as well.

Swimming Upstream is good too.

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Mad Max 2.

And The Man Who Sued God. A quite charming film starring Billy Connolly as a guy whose boat is hit by lightning. The insurance company refuses to pay out, claims Act of God. So he sues the Churches.

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