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Episode two of David Stratton's Stories of Australian Cinema - focusing on the enduring figure of the outsider - is starting now on @BBCFOUR. I'll be live-tweeting the whole thing via #StrattOnBBC.…
@BBCFOUR Before David kicks off his discussion of the figure of 'the outsider', it's worth noting the slight inflection that this takes when we remember Australia's very existence as a settler nation. #StrattOnBBC
Even in cinematic terms, Australian cinema itself exists as an outsider, an outlier, a result of it's particular status - as Tom O'Regan tells us in his landmark book Australian National Cinema - as a 'medium-sized English language cinema'.
MURIEL'S WEDDING is perhaps the quintessential vision of small-town outsiderness. As a kid from a tiny country town, I always found it VERY relatable.
As Rachel Griffiths notes there, MURIEL'S WEDDING was hardly universally liked by critics. The cringe was strong with this one. And as noted, a lot of time was spent getting that balance between likeability and tragedy just right. It is just so well observed. #StrattOnBBC
Our weekly Australian (virtual) film club (a lockdown coping mechanism) watched DON'S PARTY a few weeks back, and it was really interesting to observe the through-lines between Jeanie Drynan's put-upon wives in that and MURIEL'S WEDDING. #StrattOnBBC
THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB is a delightful oddity of a film, based on an extremely popular book written by an Anglo pretending to be an Italian. The film was directed by Michael Powell, his first after being shut out of the British film industry after PEEPING TOM. #StrattOnBBC
This 'gap' in production during the postwar period has been much valourised in Australian cinema, partly as a way of shoring up the idea of a 'renaissance' in the 1970s. The 60s were certainly a particularly stark period, but this 'interval' is often overstated. #StrattOnBBC
A nice companion piece for THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB is this government short made by Lee Robinson, DOUBLE TROUBLE (1951), which was made to encourage Australian's to be patient with 'new chums'.… #StrattOnBBC
The relationship between 'new Australians' from Italy is also explored in the Italian production A GIRL IN AUSTRALIA (Luigi Zampa, 1971), as well as in the 50s/60s films of Melbourne-based Giorgio Mangiamele.… #StrattOnBBC
'White outsiders conquering the land' is an important phrase there, and the mythology of the outback (white) male is key to Australian culture, and to cultural nationalism. #StrattOnBBC
Maybe I stole it from someone else, but I often delight in calling WAKE IN FRIGHT 'the best documentary about outback Australia ever made'. A brilliant, chilling, stunning film. A true masterpiece. #StrattOnBBC
Kotcheff's 'outsiderness' is key to the success of WAKE IN FRIGHT. He once remarked that the men who prowled the parched outback wasn't all that different to the frozen north of Canada where he was raised. #StrattOnBBC
The menacing hospitality of WAKE IN FRIGHT is key to the film's 'ugly home truths', rooting this almost classical tale in a very specific rural context. #StrattOnBBC
I know several British people who claim EVIL ANGELS (aka A CRY IN THE DARK) as their favourite Australian film. #StrattOnBBC
Jill Billcock, talking there about EVIL ANGELS, is one of Australia's finest film editors. Next week, I'll post a list of other docos about Australian cinema that people might be interested in seeking out, including this one about Billcock:… #StrattOnBBC
The fact that Stratton talks about Nic Roeg falling in love with Australia while working on a film here, without naming that film (THE SUNDOWNERS), illustrates the ambivalence that still exists in Australia about what does and does not 'count' as 'Australian cinema'. #StrattOnBBC
So THE SUNDOWNERS (a Hollywood-backed production, with two US leads) seemingly doesn't count as 'Australian', but WALKABOUT (which is just as 'foreign' in many ways) very much does. #StrattOnBBC
Part of this is about 'quality' (and the freedom to reject the lesser films, and absorb the 'better' ones), but part of it is about the narrative of Australian film history itself. #StrattOnBBC
WALKABOUT is undoubtedly a powerful film, but it is also a deeply troubling, overtly racist vision of Australia as a space that always privileges the settler and punishes the 'native'. #StrattOnBBC
Sidney Nolan has a myriad of fascinating links with Australian cinema. I once wrote an hour-long lecture that very thing, but never got to deliver it (my Dad died that morning). I want to write it up properly soon. #StrattOnBBC
This section of the documentary offers an extremely pertinent engagement with the historical and cultural legacies of Australia's settler colonial existence, although I'm not sure that BRAN NUE DAE is the best representation of that. #StrattOnBBC
Worth noting that the recent renaissance of Indigenous filmmaking in Australia is styled the 'Blak Wave'. Felicity Collins is but one scholar who writes about this. #StrattOnBBC
Love PRISCILLA, and love confusing British people with cries of 'Chookas!', which is Australian theatrical slang with a meaning akin to 'break a leg'. #StrattOnBBC
We did a @LondonAustFilm screening of PRISCILLA for #LondonPride last year. We were meant to have Stephan Elliott for a Q&A but he couldn't make it and sent Terence Stamp instead! The only thing I really remember is him endorsing Alphonso as the best mango variety. #StrattOnBBC
@LondonAustFilm That's it for #StrattOnBBC for this week. Join me next week for the final episode, in which David delves into the many dysfunctions of the family unit in Australian cinema. Just don't expect much serenity.
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