Thursday, January 8, 2009


Photos by David Mariuz and Reuters, from here.

I went to see Baz Luhrmann's film Australia this week. I wasn't expecting great things from it (in fact, my expectations kept getting lost behind the couch) but it was an, um, interesting experience.

So there was great scenery and lots of lovely cows and those painterly CGI effects I do so enjoy. There were sunsets and period costumes and a veritable volary of great Australian actors.

But the thing I was most looking forward to was coming home post-screening and reading Germaine Greer's review of the film which had been published in the Guardian on December 16 last year.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Greer's descriptions of Michelle Obama's dress on the night of the US election as a "butcher's apron" and a "geometrical hemorrhage" I was very much looking forward to her take on Australia.

And what a fabulously ferocious review it is! Where the film wasn't quite sure what genre it was (epic? pantomine? war story? love story? agricultural history?) the review is definitely of the less enthusiastic kind. Take the opening line, for example: "The scale of the disaster that is Baz Luhrmann's Australia is gradually becoming apparent." Giddy up!

And from there it's off! While I spent the first 20 minutes of the film muttering to myself "pantomine? No? Yes, pantomine! No? Not a pantomine, yes?" I had no trouble identifying the kind of review Greer's was: it was damning, thoroughly and consistently, from beginning to end.

While Australia stopped and started between the love story and the war story Greer raced through a dazzling array of critical gems: from historical inaccuracies, through imperial fantasies, the appalling treatment of Aboriginal people since European 'settlement' in Australia to infant mortality rates and false mythologies.

By the end of the movie I had shared a few laughs with my fellow cinema-goers and enjoyed trying to figure out whether Nicole Kidman had recently had shock therapy, but for narrative drive, conviction and challenging content the review wins hands down.

For a review that's a little more fun than frowny frowny Greer's, check this out: Australia is a "cheesy, cloying catastrophe". Noice.


cc said...

Perhaps it's time to review GERMAINE HERSELF! - in her role as cantankerous commentator on EVERYTHING! (sorry to appear to shout, but I haven't worked out how to do italics!)
She's of an age when a bit of cognitive deterioration could be expected - some dementia creeping in; the unattractive exaggeration of previously endearing traits (angry young academic becomes bitchy old bore).
I'm still trying to work out whether YOU YOURSELF found any noteworthy aspects to the film.

squib said...

I think this film would have worked in the eighties or nineties. The fact that it didn't shows that our nation is getting a little older and a little more cynical, which is nice

'cheesy, cloying catastrophe'

He should be a poet

Kettle said...

Ah mercy, cc, that's the spirit! A little cognitive deterioration, a side step from academic to bore. You raise a good point: who reviews the reviewers?

I do find Greer refreshing, though, and was genuinely looking forward to reading her thoughts on Australia.

My thoughts on the film? It was enjoyable, although I was with an enjoyable bunch of people so perhaps it benefited from the rosy glow?

I think it was taking itself less seriously than it has been accused (Nicole Kidman was genuinely funny in places), but I don't think it (or any movie with such a title) could afford not to take its characters or story seriously. I found it a little confused and inconsistent and jumpy. It was cliched and sweet in places but actually quite damaging in its portrayal of Aboriginal Australians. If you read the Greer review, lemme know what you think :)

I hope you're right, squib. A little age and cynicism are never out of place.

cc said...

Thanks Kettle for your lengthy and thoughtful response.
I need to give some more thought to the aboriginal issues portrayed.