Sunday, November 30, 2008

Australia Takes You on a Journey

Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and Nullah (Brandon Walters)posted by John85 (Flickr)

I saw Australia the other day and absolutely love this film. It is epic filmmaking at its best. Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times compared it to Giant, Gone With the Wind, and Lawrence of Arabia. All classics and Australia will be one as well.

The cinematography is pure perfection like what we saw in Sydney Pollack's film, Out of Africa. I was wondering if this film could top Out of Africa, one of my favorite love stories. They are tied, but in different ways. Australia is not just a love story, but encompasses racial prejudice, evil deeds, and the war.

Sarah Ashley ( Nicole Kidman) posted by beast and bean (Flickr)

Mandy Walker, the cinematographer, deserves the Academy Award. Wait until you see the scene when the cattle are on the run near a canyon. I was on the edge of my seat and do not know how she got those shots. Baz Luhrmann directed this film, but did he ever make the right choice in hiring Ms. Walker to shoot his vision.

Sarah and the Drover posted by beast and bean (Flickr). Not the first kiss, still a great shot.

Ms. Walker got the perfect angle and lighting on the first time the Drover (Hugh Jackman) kisses Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) on the cattle drive. I think that is the best I have seen Kidman look ever. You will see what I mean. Of course I am in love with Hugh Jackman now and am looking for my own Drover.
Photo of Nullah (Brandon Walters) posted by Asso Pixiel (Flickr)

The little boy in the film, Nullah, reminded me so much of the student I met my first year teaching who was from Micronesia. I was completely relating to Sarah Ashley in her scenes with Nullah.

Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and Nullah (Brandon Walters) posted by Asso Pixiel (Flickr)

Nullah is played by Brandon Walters and I will say he nearly steals the show. I hope he wins all the awards. The film touches on the Stolen Generation, a bit of history I am sure the Australians are ashamed of, and rightfully so.

I do not know if any of you have seen Peter Noyce's film, Rabbit Proof Fence, but it is about the Stolen Generation and shows how mixed race Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and raised in mission schools. Can you imagine? This went on until the 70s when it was finally outlawed.
A young David Gulpilil in Roeg's film, Walkabout posted by Positively Puzzled (Flickr)

Nullah's grandfather, King George, is played by David Gulpilil, the same man who was the star in Nicolas Roeg's film, Walkabout. I think Walkabout was made in the early 70s. Anyone see that film? Highly recommend you put it in your on line rental queue. It is about two white kids who end up on a "walkabout" with a young Aboriginal man.

I was lucky enough to see that film shortly after it was released at my school. I went to a middle school in Northern California, near the radical bay area in the early 70s. At the time, I had no idea my teachers were such radicals. One of them had the foresight to show us the film, Walkabout. This film changed me forever.

Walkabout photo posted by Positively Puzzled (Flickr)

I hope Baz Luhrmann paid David Gulpilil a lot of money, but I am guessing money means nothing to this man. I am so glad Luhrmann found him to play the part. Gulpilil was just so perfect. You will see what I mean.

Walters, Gulpilil, Kidman, Jackman and all supporting roles give award-winning performances. The director, cinematographer, art director, and sound man better get awards as well. The film is 2:45 minutes, but the time just flies. I cried at about four or five different points, but laughed as well. At one point in the film, King George tells Sarah, "You have been on a journey." This film takes you on a journey you will not soon forget.

The Drover (Hugh Jackman) posted on Flickr by Asso Pixiel

I heard that Luhrmann changed the ending several times because of audience screening reactions. Audiences thought the ending too sad. However, I heard the man himself interviewed and Luhrmann said films go through many script changes and his ending had nothing to do with private audience screenings. I thought the ending was perfect.

Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) posted on Flickr by Asso Pixiel

Lastly, I saw this film with a friend before we went over to Gil and Shelly's fabulous Thanksgiving dinner. Gil is a cinematographer and there are some film people who come to these dinners.

The Drover (Jackman) posted by beast and bean (Flickr)

Anyway, at this 40 foot long table, I happened to sit across from a camera man who has worked with Mandy Walker. I told him that I had just seen screen perfection. I asked what Ms. Walker was like. Before he answered, I said, "I bet she is a complete perfectionist." He said, "You're right, but she is great to work with on set. A true professional." I hope we will be seeing her name in the credits of films a lot now.


Allan said...

Too bad that it is a cliche version of Australiana with only a limited appreciation of historical fact. Enjoy, America ...

Mary Cuevas said...

hi allan,
thanks for commenting. yes it is epic filmmaking and so full of dramatization and sweeping cinematography. but i left with a greater appreciation for australia. your country id breathtaking. i fell in love with nullah and want to adopt him.:)

one thing i think the film brings into light that few in america know about is the bombing of darwin.

the stolen generation was discussed in the peter noyce film "rabbit proof fence." so we know about that period of time which can be compared loosely to our segregation laws of separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, schools, etc. for what we called "colored people" at the time. a shameful period of american history.

thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

What a rubbish movie, Baz you can't bowl and can't bat