Fred Schepisi's The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
The Last New Wave: Celebrating the Australian Film Revival kicks off Friday with seven days of seminal works from a decade (the 1970s) that saw a resurgence of Australian film production and launched the careers of some of nation's most prominent film talents, from directors to actors to cinematographers. Though many of the names in the series are immediately recognizable—among them Peter Weir, Mel Gibson, Jacki Weaver, Judy Davis, and George Miller—the majority of the titles might not be, so we've put together a brief guide to some of the not-to-be-missed offerings on display.
Opening Night film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith marked the international breakthrough of Australian director Fred Schepisi. Based on the Booker Prize-shortlisted novel by Thomas Keneally, the film follows a half-Aboriginal, half-white young man who attempts to conform to the rules of white society but is eventually driven to a violent outburst against it. It competed for the Palme d'Or at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival, where it won wide acclaim. Schepisi would go on to great success in Hollywood in the 1980s with a mix of crowd and critical favorites like Roxanne, A Cry in the Dark, Six Degrees of Separation and The Russia House. Schepisi's semi-autobiographical debut feature about a 13-year-old boy coming of age in a Catholic seminary, The Devil's Playground, is also included in the series, and we are delighted to welcome him to the Film Society for screenings of both films!
Also gracing our theaters is celebrated director Phillip Noyce. Another Hollywood crossover success, Noyce is best-known stateside for a pair of Harrison Ford action flicks (Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger) and the award-winning 2002 drama Rabbit-Proof Fence. In this series, we're heading back to 1977 with Noyce's impressive debut feature Backroads. Influenced by iconic road movies like Easy Rider and Kings of the Road, the film pairs a racist white drifter with a young Aboriginal activist on a journey through New South Wales that includes a cast of colorful ride-alongs and mounting tension as the two are tracked by the police. We'll also be showing Noyce's followup Newsfront, a grand-scope elegy to the work Australia's newsreel cameramen across in fraught decade of the nation's history.
Academy Award-nominated director Bruce Bereford's credits include more than 45 feature films spread across over 50 years, including Oscar winners Tender Mercies (1983) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Here we focus on three back-to-back(-to-back) titles made in the mid-70s that helped establish him as a major voice in the Australian Film Revival. Don's Party adapts David Williamson's stage satire about an election-night party turned drunk and ugly. The Getting of Wisdom takes on a 1910 Handel Richardson novel about a country girl adapting to life in a Melbourne boarding school. Finally, the brilliantly-paced heist flick Money Movers follows the disintegration of three employees' well-laid plain to rob the armored-car company they work for. See the lot and save with our Three Film Package!
A look back at the influence of the Australian Film Revival would not be complete without two of its greatest contributions: Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and George Miller's Mad Max (1979). The former is considered by many (including series programmer Scott Foundas) to be the defining work of the Australian Film Revival. Six time Oscar nominee Weir's celebrated film makes spectacular use of its setting's otherworldly landscape and an unsettling score to tell the eery story of a high school girls' field trip gone wrong.
Mad Max and its sequels hardly need an introduction, though it's worth remembering that if it weren't for this post-apocalyptic, surprise international action hit from doctor-turned-filmmaker Miller, the world would not have Mel Gibson so… thanks? Kidding aside, Mad Max is a film well-worth revisiting on the big screen, if for no other reason than to prepare for Miller's long-awaited return to the franchise next year, Mad Max: Fury Road.
The Last New Wave: Celebrating the Australian Film Revival runs from January 25 – 31 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. See three or more films and save with our Discount Package!