To celebrate the Melbourne International Film Festival, part two of our film studies festival:
This documentary covers the extraordinary early years of film in Australia from the 1890s through to the 1940s, a period when Australia seemed at the very forefront of movie making! The Story of the Kelly Gang from 1906 is considered to be one of the first feature films ever made anywhere, whilst other titles such as Robbery Under Arms and The Sentimental Bloke showed an industry with seemingly boundless energy.
“Finally a documentary full of gratuitous nudity, senseless violence, car crashes … and a bit of kung fu.” Which just about sums up quite a bit of Australian movie making in the 1970s and 80s, celebrated here in this marvellous documentary which includes contributions from everyone from Barry Humphries to Quentin Tarantino. Having grown up with most of these films (yes, even Alvin Purple!), it’s great fun revisiting them and hearing the anecdotes from the people who were either directly involved in their making, or who have come to appreciate them retrospectively. And I’m sorry, but anybody who tries to tell me that Razorback isn’t a great movie will just need to step outside……
Looking further afield, this fascinating documentary explores the life and work of the great Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa, whose influence on world cinema is almost impossible to overestimate. Perhaps even more celebrated in the West than he was in his homeland, Kurosawa’s films almost singlehandedly introduced global audiences to the incredibly rich legacy of Japanese cinema, and his films continue to influence countless filmmakers the world over. And how moving it is to see and hear great Japanese actors such as Tatsuya Nakadai (Ran) and Isuzu Yamada (Throne of Blood) speak about their experiences working with such a giant. Marvellous!
I’ve highlighted this wonderful series before, but its examination of “Hollywood” primarily from the point of view of the studio heads, rather than the actors and directors (although they are definitely present), gives you a real insight into the commercial, social and political forces at work behind the glamorous facade of the “dream factory”.
In the days when going to the cinema was truly memorable, no matter what the film was like: