Catching The Newest Wave Of Local Films
30 December 1994
The latest batch of Australian films have promising diversity but no guarantee of success, writes Peter Galvin.
IT IS AN often quoted and not very well understood truism that film- making is a risky business and that nobody ever felt good about making a flop.
This year Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel’s Wedding unexpectedly captured the punter’s imagination.
Will “feelgood” be the mood that captures audiences in 1995, too?
And, more importantly, can the Australian cinema maintain the extraordinary commercial momentum built up in the past 12 months?
A look at the production slate for the new year offers comedies in a variety of styles, but what is so promising about the new crop of feature films is their diversity. Gritty urban dramas, romance and black comedy are all well represented.
Village Roadshow and the Film Finance Corporation have high hopes for writer-director Geoffrey Wright’s urban drama Metal Skin.
The film has already appeared at festivals in Venice, Toronto and Stockholm to a mixed reaction from critics and a “strong, positive response from young audiences”, according to its producer, Daniel Scharf.
Like Wright’s debut, Romper Stomper, Metal Skin deals with scarred young lives, violence and romance. “What Daniel Scharf and I are good at is violence with consequences, and that’s not like Hollywood violence. I promise you I have never seen anything like it. People walk out with their mouths open,” Wright says.
The film stars Aden Young as the disenchanted Joe who, Wright says, gives the performance of the ’90s and shatters his pretty-boy image; Ben Mendelsohn as a promiscuous revhead named Dazey; Tara Morice (of Strictly Ballroom) as Savina, who toys with the occult; and Nadine Garner as Dazey’s girlfriend. Metal Skin is scheduled for a May release.
Another Melbourne feature with a storyline which sounds confronting is Angel Baby, the directorial debut for writer Michael Rymer.
Though the film deals with a love affair between two schizophrenics, Rymer insists that the film is not about schizophrenia at all. Rymer promises a poignant character-based story with laughs and drama.
Jacqueline McKenzie and John Lynch star as the lovers.
There are also black themes, such as death and ageing, in a comedy called Mushrooms. Written and directed by Alan Madden, it’s a strange, dark tale about two women who end up in an adventure with a runaway criminal and a corpse.
The producer, John Maynard, says that his latest project, All Men Are Liars, is “very, very funny in a deadpan kind of way”.
The film is screenwriter and novelist Gerard Lee’s first feature (Lee co-wrote Jane Campion’s Sweetie, which Maynard produced).
All Men is set in far north Queensland and is about Mick, a country boy, who joins an all-girl band (disguised as a girl) and falls in love with Angela, one of the band members who is flirting with lesbianism.
The film has just been completed and Maynard says he plans a spring release.
One of the most eagerly awaited productions of 1995 will be On Our Selection. This period melodrama features the big screen debut of Dame Joan Sutherland.
A long-held dream for its director, George Whaley, who adapted the Steele Rudd novels, the project has already been dubbed old-fashioned by some pundits, a claim which the producer, Anthony Buckley, finds disdainful.
Buckley reckons that the Australian public wants to see the original Aussie battlers, the Rudds, who overcome all kinds of hardship on their “selection” of land on Queensland’s Darling Downs.
The film features an all-star cast, including Leo McKern as Dad, Barry Otto, Ray Barrett and Noah Taylor. It is set for a spring release.
Two stage adaptations will hit the screens in the new year.
Hotel Sorrento, directed by Richard Franklin, is a quiet story about three generations of a family. It stars Joan Plowright, Caroline Goodall, Caroline Gilmer, Tara Morice and John Hargreaves.
Cosi, adapted by Louis Nowra from his play, is a comedy about a young drama teacher who directs a group of mental patients in a version of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, even though none of the participants can sing, speak Italian or act.
Cosi is directed by Mark Joffe and produced by Richard Brennan, who last teamed on Spotswood.
Among the other films in production are the romantic comedy Billy’s Holiday, which is being directed by Richard Wherrett; Rolf de Heer’s sci-fi feature Epsilon; and a co-production with the Japanese, Napoleon, which stars a golden retriever pup.
Some of these movies may prove dogs; others may demonstrate that you can have a hit in Australia without a ’70s soundtrack.