Friday, 8 July 2016

Five Great Australian Films

Great films can be found just about anywhere. It doesn't really matter what your preferred style, or genre, is either - as long as a country actually has the industry, and support, necessary to actually make film-making possible, then it's almost a guarantee that you will be able to find some film's there that are worth your time.

That also includes my own country - Australia. Even though many Australians (including myself, on occasion) seem to have developed an unfortunate tendency of ignoring our own films, in favour of those from overseas, there have still been plenty of genuinely entertaining films made, down here.

Like the five listed below, for example.

These Final Hours


With a large-scale extinction level event currently in the process of wiping out all life on the planet, the population of Perth, Australia, find themselves left to decide how best to spend their last few hours before the end in These Final Hours.

James is only concerned with making it to the epic 'end of the world' party thrown by some of his friends - where desperate people fill their final hours with drugs, alcohol, and general debauchery all while trying to convince themselves that they are having 'fun'. His only real interest is in making sure that he doesn't actually feel anything when the world finally comes to an end. Rose, on the other hand, just wants to spend her final hours with her family - a family that she has been separated from as the film opens.

The two cross paths when James rescues the young girl from a pair of kidnappers - and, as they travel together, James finds himself increasingly compelled to do something worthwhile before the end, by helping Rose find her father.

These Final Hours, is a bleak film, sure. It's occasionally violent, and often depressing - and, the film's inevitable end-point doesn't leave a lot of room for interesting plot developments. But, it is a film which is also able to draw moments of genuine warmth, and even humor, out of his apocalyptic premise.

The Rover


Thematically, The Rover is a film which seems to pick up where the previous one left off (though, in the case of These Final Hours, there's not likely to be any sort of 'post-apocalypse' for those characters to try to survive in). Taking place after a largely undefined economic collapse has brought modern civilization grinding to a halt, the film introduces the audience to a post-apocalyptic Australian Outback which... looks exactly like the Australian Outback (honestly, there isn't much you need to do, there, to make it look desolate and inhospitable).

In this bleak, and increasingly hopeless, world and unnamed drifter has his only notable possession, his car, stolen by a gang of desperate thieves. Later crossing paths with another member of their gang, who had been left behind during the fire-fight they are currently fleeing, this Rover forces the young man to help him track down the thieves. Clearly, he is determined to recover his stolen belongings - but, perhaps more importantly, it seems that he is also set on enacting some violent revenge.

The Rover is a dark film - one that makes for occasionally uncomfortable viewing. It's a film full of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to each other - with nothing even close to a clearly defined hero for the audience to identify with. But, if you can stomach that sort of thing, it still makes for an oddly compelling experience.

Ned Kelly


The 'western' genre may be intimately tied to the history of America, for obvious reasons, but America's gradual expansion into the west isn't the only time and place in history that can serve as the setting for that particular sort of tale. Australia, for example, had its own period of violent lawlessness, early on - when violent criminals, typically referred to as 'bush rangers', were able to achieve notoriety through their exploits. The most well-known of these was Ned Kelly - whose greatest claim to fame would probably be the time he attempted to take on the police while wearing a suit of improvised metal armor (it didn't actually work - he was captured and hanged).

Every Australian knows the name Ned Kelly - though, the issue of whether he was just a criminal, or actually some sort of 'Robin Hood' style folk hero, is open to debate. The film does make its own choice in how it wants to present him to the audience, though - clearly going for the 'folk hero' option, as it shows us an honest man driving toward a life of crime by circumstances beyond his control.

Whether there is actually any historical accuracy in this portrayal, though, doesn't actually matter in the end. The film, itself, provides an entertaining 'Australian' take on the western genre, either way.

Chopper


Mark 'Chopper' Read has always been a bizarrely fascinating figure. He was an unrepentant criminal who went on to become famous for his crimes, thanks to the publication of a series of auto-biographical books. He was obsessed with fame, and the spot-light, to such an extent that there has always been some doubt regarding whether any of the stories he told about himself are actually true. He was also, and perhaps obviously, a man who spent much of his life in prison.

Does the fact that someone like this could become a celebrity, here, say anything about this country? Well, I'm not sure. But, the fact is that, until his death in 2013, Mark 'Chopper' Read was a celebrity. There was even a film based on him, and his exploits - one which, more than likely, was made with his enthusiastic approval.

Chopper is a violent film - but it is also, quite often, a darkly funny one. Beginning, and ending, in prison the film shows us key moments in the life of this eccentric, and contradictory, figure - at one point, lashing out at friends in a sudden rage, and at another driving by sudden guilt to see that a man he has just shot makes it to the hospital.

It's a fascinating film. One made even more so by the fact that this is a real person - and, given the man's reputation, by the fact that we have no real way of knowing how much of it is actually true.

The Proposition


Another 'Australian Western' - though, this time, one that clearly strives for the dark and grim moral ambiguity of the 'spaghetti westerns' made famous by Sergio Leone.

The Proposition is a film built on a very simple premise. The Burns brothers are violent outlaws - diligently hunted by the law. When Charlies Burns, and his mentally handicapped younger brother Mikey, are finally caught and arrested, though, he finds himself presented with a proposition during his interrogation. If he agrees to hunt down, and kill, their eldest brother, Arthur, then both he and Mikey will be allowed to go free - if he refused, then Mikey will be hanged for their crimes, and the man-hunt for the two older brothers will resume. So, with only a short period of time in which to act, Charlie finds himself forced to choose between the only one of the three who could be thought of as truly 'innocent', and the brother who has always protected him.

The Proposition is a very dark film, even when compared to the other films on this list. But, if you can stomach it, it's also every bit as fascinating.

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