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Category — Australian

Lost Aussie Thriller – WAKE IN FRIGHT

WAKE IN FRIGHT is a forgotten film that’s hard to forget.

It’s rare I see something that not only affects me, but also gets better the more I reflect on it. Though made in 1971, Ted Kotcheff‘s Wake in Fright disappeared until 2009 when it was restored and released to DVD and select theaters. The mysterious “lost” film status has definitely added to its appeal- as if the film itself now rises from the grave to haunt new generations of unsuspecting viewers. The tale of John Grant, a teacher (played wonderfully by Gary Bond) stuck in the Australian Outback working through his contract, the film opens at Christmas vacation, with our hero set to spend a much-needed holiday in Sydney with his lovely girlfriend. Of course there are no direct flights from the tiny miserable town, so he must first stop over in a place we’ll come to know quite well: “The Yabba.” While John isn’t pleased about spending the night in this town of unsophisticated hicks, he nevertheless decides to visit the local bar. There he discovers plenty of beer, a friendly Sheriff, and a gambling game called “two-up.” What follows is so tense, so mesmerizing, so insane, that regardless of whether you love or hate it it’ll no doubt affect you. While on the surface Wake in Fright is just a crazy story about a stuck-up British man getting drunk and living out his worst nightmare, on deeper levels it’s an examination of what it means to be a man, what it means to be human, and how far you have to be pushed to surrender your preconceived notions of “good” or “polite.” How far before you stop being a condescending asshole? How do you survive in a harsh wilderness from which there’s no escape? How does a civilized dude survive in a harsh emotional landscape when it’s socially unacceptable for him to show emotion? What’s it like to be so hungry for human contact that you’d welcome a fist fight? The characters that populate this film are fascinating: endearing in their simplicity while managing to be both tender and intimidating at once. And as menacing as it is, it’s also an absurd tale: more than once I found myself cringing and giggling at the same time. On top of which, the visuals are so rich and thick you could scoop them out with a spoon, and really feel every speck of dust and bead of sweat. So many movies have tried to depict a “descent into madness,” but the transformation John goes through here is like nothing else I’ve ever seen. I won’t forget it anytime soon…and I don’t think I ever want to see a kangaroo or an Australian pint of beer ever again.


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February 5, 2013   No Comments

Great Scenes – RAZORBACK

A cult favorite that’s full of some truly stunning images of the Australian outback, Russell Mulcahy‘s Razorback (1984) is something of a mixed bag – not good enough to be classified as a classic but better than your run-of-the-mill creature-features. The story of a ginormous boar terrorizing the Australian outback, it’s a somewhat cliched affair which overachieves thanks to its director’s visual acumen – just as his Highlander (1986) would a coupla years later. Mulcahy – who recently bowed out of his own script for target=”_blank”>Bait -was the original MTV auteur, having directed “ target=”_blank”>Video Killed the Radio Star” for The Buggles, and brings a ton of gloss and style without the blatant disregard for storytelling most music-video alumni tend to exhibit. Check out this fun scene in which the Razorback rips apart a trailer. Then go find the flick and watch it – and then go book a trip to Australia to hunt giant boar.

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September 18, 2012   1 Comment

Lyrical Aussie Western – THE PROPOSITION

THE PROPOSITION is a grimy look at the Outback, courtesy of Nick Cave and friends.

Just when you thought Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven would be the Western’s final ride into the sunset, a pair of Aussies refuse to let the genre go down quietly; director John Hillcoat and musician-turned-screenwriter Nick Cave, who’ve conspired to deliver the next great Western revival, 2005’s The Proposition. Harsh in tone yet poetically delivered, this film shows us a side of the Outback seldom seen. The yarn goes as follows: After being captured by the law, Charlie Burns, played by Guy Pearce, is asked to bring his ruthless older brother Arthur to justice. If he fails to do so within a few weeks his younger brother, also captured by the authorities, will be killed. Charlie agrees, and rides off into the wild frontier to hunt his brother down. The Outback itself is a central character in the film – it feels like a constant 100 degrees with no shade in sight, a wasteland without remorse, whose dirt, grime, and quite often insect life assaults the actors incessantly. Nobody looks happy in this movie, and all save the locals are in way out of their depths against the cruelty of the landscape. It’s no surprise that Hillcoat also directed 2009’s The Road – landscapes consumed by pain seem to be his bag. Nick Cave’s first solo attempt at a screenplay (he co-wrote 1988’s Ghosts… of the Civil Dead) proves to be an altogether worthy affair, his poetry on full display throughout. Another notable standout is veteran actor John Hurt, who plays a brilliant bounty hunter out to capture Arthur – who embodies the pain of the countryside and the way it destroys a man. Fans of the Western have cause to rejoice, and for those of you with an aversion toward Westerns, I assure you this The Proposition is one journey worth taking by all lovers of good cinema.

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July 26, 2010   2 Comments

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