As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Australia

Posted by Hedwig on December 21, 2008

I find it hard to explain my love for Baz Luhrman – in fact, I hardly understand it myself. After all, I tend to go for the understated movies a lot of time, the spare movies, the carefully composed ones, the intellectual, the thought-out, the nuanced. None of these terms can be applied to Luhrman’s oeuvre. Still, I absolutely love Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, and I go back to his out-there Aussie debut, Strictly Ballroom, over and over again.

australia

Now, there’s Australia, which I dragged the boyfriend to last night: a big sprawling mess of a movie which doesn’t really work, and which can be easily criticized: it’s really two movies in one, with an awkward interlude, it has some gaping plot holes, in its eagerness to combat racism it way overshoots into magical negro territory…but I kind of love it nonetheless. Well, love might be too big a word. But I couldn’t quite resist its all-out, enthusiastic, unrelenting celebration of movie magic.

I know, “unrelenting” usually isn’t seen as a positive thing, but let me come to Australia‘s defense. It might fail on a storytelling level (ironic for a movie which posits people are nowhere without a story), but as a throwback to the golden days of epic Hollywood film-making,  it works. I’m not saying it’s a new Gone with the Wind (though it shares some of its themes, and the uncomfortable treatment of race), but that wasn’t the only film made back then. There were plenty of others that were more about the scenery, the beautiful people, and the grand emotions than about a story told well. Plenty of others which aspired to nothing more than to give every member in the audience – be they male or female, old or young – something to look at.

And that Australia does: the reluctant bf had prepared himself for a rough two-and-a-half hours, but while he didn’t love it, he did enjoy watching it; the movie has plenty of sexual moments if you know where to look (see for instance how the Drover is fastening his belt as he leaves Kidman to go droving), but it’s essentially chaste, and the violence is kept mostly off-screen, so you could absolutely take kids; and there’s some history, for those interested in history there’s plenty of that. And for those, like me, who appreciate looking at strapping, manly men without their shirt on, well, there’s plenty: Jackman is filmed the way usually only women are, particularly in a washing scene which would definitely get my panties in a bunch, and he’s a gorgeous, gorgeous sight (I gushed so much that it made the bf slightly jealous, something I’ve tried and failed to achieve for some time now).

 

Most of all, Australia is a movie-movie, without any pretense of realism, and I think that’s why it appeals to me despite its flaws. See, my dad bought a HDTV. And you know what? I don’t really like it. Everything looks too sharp, too precise, too REAL on it. That sounds like a strange criticism, I know: shouldn’t I, as a film buff, want the image to be as crisp and clear as it can be? But in the cinema, the images aren’t so sharp either: they’re detailed, but there’s a gloss, a typical movie sheen that makes it, paradoxically, easier for me to immerse myself. It even makes it easier to care: I cry much more easily at movies than I do at real life tragedies. I see enough of life around me already, and I want my movies to be movie-ish. And it’s hard to get more movie-ish than this.

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3 Responses to “Australia”

  1. Beth said

    “Most of all, Australia is a movie-movie, without any pretense of realism, and I think that’s why it appeals to me despite its flaws.”
    YES! My capsule review was “Now that‘s a movie!” Luhrman throws everything in and made me love it–OK, Hugh Jackman didn’t hurt! Must be seen in the theater.

  2. Just wanted to pop in and wish you a happy holiday if you’re celebrate it Hedwig and a happy new year no matter what.

    Cheers.

  3. Kaj said

    The cattle drove at the edge of the canyon is easily one of my favourite scenes of the year.

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