Last week I went with some family members to see Baz Luhrman’s epic Australia. The film’s been getting some pretty bad press here, but we thought we’d better go ‘cos we like Baz – Moulin Rouge is the only film I’ve seen three times in a cinema and I went from not being not too sure about it to loving it. Aside from the usual tall poppy syndrome, it appears that Australia has failed to please those who want a quick hit – it’s a film you need to savour on its own terms. My brother-in-law (who’s not famous for cultural analysis) came out of the cinema saying “do you think you’d see more things in it if you saw it again?”
Perhaps it’s worth looking at Baz Luhrmann as a quintessentially post-modern director:
postmodernists suggest that truth is no longer verifiable, and that new art forms are best created by freely mixing previous styles and themes.
If you look at Australia through this lens then it all makes sense – the use of pastiche (e.g. sweeping patriotic WWII pictures that I used to watch as a child as midday matinees on TV on summer days when it was too hot to go outside); Jedda (the drover’s dog) – check the plot to the 1955 film Jedda and you’ll find a young Aboriginal child torn between cultures… ; the motif of Oz (Aus=Oz in Australian slang, there’s a thesis worth of history on this one!) the variations on Waltzing Matilda and other songs on the soundtrack on it goes…
Lots more quotes and references – I need to see the film again! Should this be what a movie is about, a sort of giant puzzle? Yes there is a lot to puzzle out but I think the film is bigger than that and should be seen and enjoyed and thought about.
Some other thoughts…
The other enjoyment is the scenery – filmed in the Kimberley and Bowen (Qld) between us we’d been to most locations. You can’t visit the top end without bringing a part of the country back in your soul and anyone who has been there can’t fail to be moved by the grandeur recreated on screen (even if the King George River gorge was moved next door to the Bungle Bungles!)
Not historically accurate? Well, you may as well criticize Moulin Rouge for not accurately depicting the conditions of courtesans in Paris, we’re dealing with Baz, not Ken Loach!
Nicole Kidman? I’d love to see her forehead move, these words kept coming to mind…
Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null, Dead perfection; no more. — Tennyson.
(And this post isn’t the place to discuss how I know most of my Shakespeare and Tennyson from reading Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers!)
How about this juxtaposition of pre film ads (play them together for best effect)!