Monster Children magazine asked me to write about my 15 of my favourite Australian films for their latest issue (#41). No easy task, I could have put so many different films in the list and I love way more than these 15 but in the end I had to narrow it down by using pure impulse. I just imagined if the last remaining vault of Australian cinema was burning down and I could only grab 15 films that meant something to me as a filmmaker on the way out, what would they be. In no particular order, the following 15 made it...
STORM BOY Maybe my favourite Australian film of all time. The beautifully melancholic story of the motherless boy, mothering a motherless pelican 'Mr Percival' and his Fingerbone Bill, the friend every child wants and needs. Directed by Frenchman Henri Safran, perhaps it was his european sensibility that gave Storm Boy such a unique spirit and energy.
PROOF For me, the early 90's was the golden age of filmmaking in Australia. So many of my favorite films came out around this time. Spotswood, Romper Stomper and Proof to name just a few were all made in grey old Melbourne and inspired me to move to here in 1993. I watched Proof again recently. It’s one of those films you can't help but keep watching regardless of where you come into. Hugo Weaving’s character is sad, mean and hilarious at the same time in every scene. The man is a genius.
ROMPER STOMPER Romper Stomper took me into a very specific world I knew little about: the skin-head culture in the late 80's of grungy inner Melbourne's Footscray. The film is raw, uncompromising and unrelentingly hand-held. I'd never seen a camera used with such visceral menace. Russell Crowe’s greatest performance. Hands down.
RUIN Soon to be released, Ruin is one of the best
Australianfilms I've seen. Shot on a micro-budget in Cambodia, in Cambodian language, the film follows two lovers as they violently drift across the country. Kind of an Asian Natural Born Killers, but with more spirit, heart and poetry. Ruin will hopefully be released sometime in 2014 keep your eyes out for it!
LITTLE BOY LOST The first film I can remember seeing in a proper cinema. The film is a based on a true story about a little farm boy who was lost for two days and nights in rugged bush. It has a wonderfully old Australian look and feel and if I saw it again I suspect it would be quite dinky, but as a 6 year old I found it quite profound. I'm still haunted by some of the images.
ALBY MANGLES WORLD SAFARI 1 My Mum took me to see World Safari, not in a cinema but at the local RSL. A projector was set up, and Alby's adventures flickered on a fold out screen on the stage. World Safari (I, II and III) are rudimentary and clunky, but filled with a true sense of adventure. They gave me a curiosity for the what was out in the world, and for independent, bare bones film making.
CUNNAMULLA I distinctly remember sitting in Carltons Cinema Nova in the year 2000 thinking Dennis O’Rorkes portrait of small town Australia being a devastating different portrait to the one the Australian Olympic Commitee were sending out for all the world to see at the same time. Rough as guts racism, bored as bat shit youth, the film shows just how wide the divide is between city and country, rich and poor, black and white. All through the unflinching lens of O'Roukes 4:3 framing. Uncompromised filmmaking!
ON THE WAVES OF THE ADRIATIC A beautiful documentary shot over five years in the late 80's, early 90's in and around Melbourne’s then pre-gentrified suburb of Brunswick. The film follows three mildly intellectually disabled young teens killing time picking through rubbish tips, riding BMX bikes and killing snakes. Kinda sounds like Harmony Korine's 'Gummo' but this film is far from Korine’s fabricated reality. It's astonishly honest, raw and human. I have it on VHS which seems appropriate (I want a DVD copy so bad!). I can't find any link to any clip or even an image of this film online. It's like it never even existed. A misplaced masterpiece of Australian cinema.
CANDY Candy is one of handful of films I could say I truly, madly, deeply fell in love with when I first saw it. I went and saw it multiple times in the the cinema. Just to spend time with it. I’m a hopeless romantic and there is something hoplessley romantic about this tragic junkie love story that got under my skin and it’s still there.
DOGS IN SPACE I was obsessed with girl who was obsessed with this film and by default I got obsessed with it to. The first time I visited Melbourne I tracked down the Richmond house where the film was shot. It was a pilgrimage that helped solidify my love for Melbourne and I moved here soon after. The end sequence where they cut around the house and all it’s empty rooms still pops into my head often. That sequence and the film as a whole has influenced alot of what I've done on screen in many ways.
LAST RIDE My list, my film. My road movie featuring Hugo Weaving as a guy who takes his ten year old son on the run through the deserts of South Australia. Making this film was dream come true and many have said it's Hugo's finest on screen performance. I tend to agree.
PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK Probably the scariest film I've ever seen. Have you been to Hanging Rock? It’s a really weird and eery place even without the 19th Century private school girls wondering around staring at frill neck lizards. The directors cut is way better than the original and surprisingly shorter. (check out this great comparison between the original and the directors cut)
PRAISE So worth seeing and in particular for Sascha Horler’s killer performace as obsessive Cynthia. I remember sitting in the dark at the Nova, jaw on the ground watching her have sex while scratching the eczema on her chest. Such a beautifully raw character. Sascha Horler totally committed to it and I'm a huge fan till this day.
VAN DIEMANS LAND This bleak, minimalist and unapolgetically art house imagining of the escape of irish convict Alexander Pearce and his mates. Don’t watch with friends on an empty stomach. Humans taste a little like chicken apparently. History Core!
RAZOR BACK When your 13 and living in a small town in country NSW, Razor Back is a really important aspect of your life. Partly because you know people who go out hunting pigs for real. But mostly because the idea that there really could be a giant feral pig out in the surrounding bush brings your imagination to life. This was my JAWS!
THE BOYS If I could choose any of the films in this list as the film I most wish I made, I think it would be this one. There is something so hypnotically menacing about this film. It's tone just grabs you from the first frame and doesn’t let go. I saw it with a girlfriend at the Greater Union on Russell Street and she didn't speak for a few hours afterward. Speechless, literally. Creepy.