Comments on watching and making films.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Baz Luhrmann is not a director who is known for subtlety. Previous films like Romeo and Juliet, and Moulin Rouge, have established Luhrmann is a true believer in the spectacle style film, and his newest, Australia, is the next logical step. The Aussie director's love affair with his native land seems like a great reason to make a beautiful, sprawling epic centered around a piece of its rich and colorful history.

The film focuses on Lady Sarah Ashley, a member of the English upper class, soon to be destitute if she can't convince her husband to sell his "project" property in Australia. She flies to the great down under to demand that he sell his cattle ranch to the local cattle monopoly run by King Carney. She arrives to an "uncivilized" group of ranch hands, brawling over the right for an aboriginal to enter a local bar. One of the fighters is a man named Drover, played by Hugh Jackman. He is her escort to the northern outback where her husbands property lies. When they get out there, they find her husband dead. She soon discovers that, through his henchman Neil Fletcher, King Carney has been stealing cattle and working to force Lord Ashley into selling him the ranch. Lady Ashley enlists Drover and a rag tag group of aboriginal's and ranch hands to help her drive the remaining cattle to the waterfront to sell to the English Navy, so that she can earn a contract that will save the ranch. But when all of this is done, there's also another whole story about World War 2, and the Japanese attack on the waterfront, and on and on and on...

And that was really my problem with this film. At two and a half hours, you feel its length, especially when it could have been a simple story about a woman trying to save a ranch. Luhrmann, though, in love with John Ford western's and the epic drama's of post war Hollywood, no doubt thought it necessary to deliver us SEVERAL stories in one. I enjoyed some of the first hour and a half or so of this film, but then it just kept going and going and going. 

On the note of post war Hollywood epic's, one is left wondering something - Is Australia's style a necessity in this age? To me, there is a reason why movie's are not made in this style anymore. You rarely see a film where everyone is lit perfectly, deliver's their lines very clearly, where the sweeping vista's don't seem like a natural part of the film, but, instead, scream out - LOOK AT ME! We see how people have adopted various styles, especially the 70's grit and grime, but I think there is a real reason why you don't see more of these epic's - People aren't that interested. They seem kind of trite and cliched, and like furniture that has its plastic wrap still on it. Do I respect Luhrmann for making a film like this? Yes. He had a vision and brought it to life in grand form. Did I like it, though? No. It was long, and boring in some parts, and some parts were an incredible waste of time. that being said, I'm always interested in seeing what Luhrmann has up his sleeve next. I think that he is a truly unique visionary, even if his visions sometimes fail.

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