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Foreign Films > Baz Luhrmann's Australia

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message 1: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments When Australia debuted in 2008, I never bothered to see it because of the terrible reviews, especially by American critics. They compared it to Gone With the Wind, found Nicole Kidman cold and unappealing, thought it was a sentimentalized Western, and so on. One said "there was no basis in Aboriginal culture" for the magical beliefs portrayed, and also, if the Aborigine's were prescient about a certain event, why didn't they predict the Japanese bombing attack on Darwin? In the first instance,the Aborigine's culture definitely centers on magical incantations and singing on sacred routes to awaken the spirits, as well as singing to the living to draw them to one. As for prescience, someone might be prescient about some events, but not others. Because of Walkabout, the Aborigine's used to, at least, learn every inch of their sometimes harsh terrain, and that King George would know the desert well enough to know where good water is, is not even magic. He observes the white people constantly and notices things. In the movie, he not only leads a herd of cattle to water, but manages to "sing" them from going over a cliff. Nullah, his grandson, said that to control cattle, you look in their eyes. Again, although the Whites believe King George is practicing magic, in truth, cattle are controlled by looking in their eyes as every wolf and every cattle herding dog knows.

The one Australian critic who panned the film objected because a scene showed kangaroos hopping alongside a moving truck. It occurred to me that this would be like objecting to a herd of buffalo in a Western. That same reviewer was most concerned that outsiders would think Australians came across as racist snobs. That, and the length of the movie, seemed to be the basis of his critique of it.

Upon reading Pam Cook's Baz Luhrmann, I decided to watch The Red Curtain Trilogy and this movie as well. I know I'm going to take flak for this, but I liked the movie very, very much. It honestly portrayed Australian racism. It was in no way like GWTW. Drover is no Rhett and Sarah is no Scarlett. The film doesn't have any of Margaret Mitchell's longing for the good old days when blacks were slaves and wealthy whites were their rightful masters.

Yes,there are stock cinematic situations in Australia. Most art takes old material and redoes it. A poet doesn't invent a new language to present his or her ideas. He or she uses the old language in new ways. Similarly, cinema uses stock images and situations to tell a new story or to re-portray an old one.

First, there is the typical situation of a buttoned-up aristocratic lady who meets a working man, sweat and all, and there is instant dislike, which we know will lead to love. Nicole Kidman is the perfect Ice Princess confined in skin-tight androgynous clothes. As the movie progresses, both her clothes and her hair become looser until, at the end, she is dressed in a frilly, bright dress. Because this is a PG movie, there are no overt sex scenes, but as my husband remarked, "You can imagine her becoming a hottie in bed."

The cinematography is gorgeous, the color saturation deep and lush, and the bombing scenes convincing. I thought with my jaded 21st century sensibility, the three leads shouldn't have been spared, but, if they weren't, most people including me, would feel gypped. It is a movie, for God's sake, and there is no reason why a movie shouldn't have a happy ending. In an old-fashioned epic like this, it seems to me the happy ending is warranted.

Luhrmann's color pallette was deep reddish-orange tones which beautifully set off the natural topography of the great outdoors. Romance is evoked by shots taken at that perfect hour just before the sun starts to set. There is a sepia undertone that underscores that this all took place long ago. The light changes to a cold blue hue when Drover believes has lost Sarah, and, later, during the bombing of Darwin. Yes,this scene does evoke the movie Pearl Harbor, but this is fitting. The bombers were coming back from that surprise attack when they bombed Darwin without warning.

I found this movie engaging and enjoyable. It is faithful to what I have read about Australian Aborigine and Anglo-Celtic cultures, as well as to historical fact. The facts presented are wrapped in a cinematic cloak that prevents this from being a documentary. Aside from the awesome digital effects, this could have been made by David Lean.


message 2: by Mawgojzeta (new)

Mawgojzeta That was a fabulous review. And, I agree with your opinions. I sat down to watch this movie with the belief that I would not like it. But, my boyfriend had already seen part of it (he never makes it through an entire movie awake - he sees movies in 3 or 4 different pieces) and said that I may really be surprised. And I was.


message 3: by Mariel (new)

Mariel (fuchsiagroan) Great review. I think critics (and maybe audiences? My whole family loves it, at least) were jarred by the fact that the film changes styles so often, and so quickly. It's hard to pin down to just any one thing.


message 4: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I borrowed it once, didn't get to see it since I had other dvd's to watch will check it out again.


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