The category of Australian Gothic covers a broad range
of film texts, with the first representatives appearing in the early 1970s at the same time
as the ‘Ocker’ comedies. The films given this label share a variety of common
characteristics, but the best known examples ( The Last Wave (Peter Weir, 1977), the
Mad Max trilogy (Dr George Miller, 1979/1981/1985). Shame (Steve Jodrell,
1987)) illustrate the variations in setting, characterisation and mode that the films essay. The environments chosen
This book offers introductory readings of some of the well-known and less well-known feature productions coming out of Australia since the revival in the national film industry at the end of the 1960s. The interpretations of the texts and the careers of their makers are considered in relation to the emergence of an indigenous film culture and the construction of national identity. The majority of the films examined in the book have had theatrical or video releases in the UK. The independent development of several indigenous film genres has been an important feature of recent production, and helped to punctuate and bracket the streams of feature production that have evolved since 1970. These Australian genres have been identified and evaluated (the Australian Gothic, the period film, the male ensemble film) and are worthy of consideration both in their own right and in their intersection with other conventionalised forms. These include science fiction, fantasy and horror in comparison with the Gothic, the heritage film and literary adaptation in connection with the period film, and the war film and rite of passage in relation to the male ensemble. More recently, an aesthetic and thematic trend has emerged in the examples of Strictly Ballroom, The Adventures of Priscilla, and Muriel's Wedding, which foregrounds elements of the camp, the kitsch and the retrospective idolisation of 1970s Glamour. Such chronological, stylistic and thematic groupings are important in the interpretation of national filmmaking.
criticism within a national cinema’s ‘explanation of the structure of
society’. With this kind of approach, the critical exercise might resemble a catalogue
of the national cinema’s diverse flora and fauna, and not a partial, generalised and
symbolic ‘map’ of the territory which has spawned them.
The prehistory of Australian
The ideal of a national cinema, and the critical
methods mobilised in its appreciation, are used to categorise the proliferating film
industries which distinguish themselves culturally
In the beginning (the late 1960s) when the desire for
an Australian cinema began to be voiced actively, the project was basically anti-cultural
imperialist. To be sure, some of the groups voicing antiimperialist sentiments were doing so
opportunistically, with secret dreams of a ‘Hollywood-south’: but this at least
was the argument which was supposed to justify government subsidisation. The whole project
then surely included the notion of a cinema capable of challenging existing film conventions,
The male ensemble film, in its first phase up to
Breaker Morant (1980), is also strongly influenced by the posture of the ocker;
blunt, loud, hedonistic and conservative in the populist manner. Its working class or lower
middle-class male ligure is not an appeal for class solidarity, but a gesture towards the
classless common man as last bastion of ‘real’ Australian virtues and vices
… the assertive use of vernacular is empowered by the feeling it is breaking with old
The quota quirky
There are only one or two, at most live, Australian
feature films in any one year that a wide cross section of the public sees and that get taken
up in subsidiary general public circulation – on radio, on television and in newspaper
features. In 1992, it was Strictly Ballroom and Romper Stomper ; in 1994, it was
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Sum of Us, Muriel’s Wedding.
Sirens and Bad Boy Hubby . Consequently these come to represent the Australian
commonly identified with the ocker films: they were tasteful and lyrical rather than brash and iconoclastic;
reflective and artistic rather than physical and populist. While these attributes were just
as misleading as those they replaced, they did create a ‘brand name’ for
Australian films, without which there was no chance of being marketed at all. 1
3 Picnic at Hanging Rock
Graeme Turner’s judgement of the place and
significance of the period films produced during the
Finding meaning and identity in the rural Australian landscape
As an icon and a resource, the Australian
landscape is increasingly vulnerable to sweeping, contradictory
historical narratives of ownership, development and progress.
(Brabazon, 1999 : 154)
Four preliminary and expository
images can be offered as
Staging an encounter between cinema and countryside is to invoke a rich and diverse spatial imagery. This book explores the reciprocal relationship between film and the rural: how film makes rural and rural makes film. Part I of the book explores the idea of the nationhood and relatedly, how cinematic countrysides frame the occupancy and experience of border zones. It covers representations of the Australian landscape and the spatial imagery behind the 'inculcation of political ideology' of North Korean films. European 'films of voyage' are a cinematic tradition that articulates representations of the countryside with questions of boundaries and cultural diversity. The 'pagan' landscape of British cinema and the American and British war films are also discussed. Part II focuses on the role that countrysides play in mediating national self-image through globalising systems of cinematic production. Films such as The Local Hero and The Lord of the Rings, the latter in the context of New Zealand as a shooting location, are discussed. The third part of the book focuses on two key markers of social identity and difference - 'childhood' and 'masculinity' - which serve to amplify how embodied identities come to inflect the idea of rural space. A family's relocation to the countryside from the city serves to emphasise that they are isolated from the moral structures that might contain their deviant behaviour. Part IV of the book deals with, inter alia, the Amber Film and Photography Collective, and amateur films on the former coalfields of Durham.
seconds flat. Well, as in features, so
in documentaries, where the pitch has invaded the non-fiction scene
with some success.
My first experience of this phenomenon was at a documentary
conference some years ago, in Brisbane, Australia, where I’d been invited to talk about film ethics, and obscure British filmmakers.
The conference was great, overflowing with wine and good cheer.
The only problem was the language, which only occasionally resembled the mother tongue I’d been brought up on in England. After a
while I learned that tinnies were beer cans, sheilas an awful