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Friday, 12 August 2016

The Current Cinema - some more enthusiasm for DOWN UNDER

Barrie Pattison has already written  about Abe Forsythe’s Down Under  and gave the film  a reasonable once over after its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival. So let me say just a few things more and not delve too deeply into the background of those awful days in Cronulla. (But it is worth saying that the film squibs on the role of the shock jock media in setting the scene.)

Abe Forsythe who wrote and directed the film, his second feature, is 35 years old. He made his first feature, Ned, about Ned Kelly some 13 years ago and in the interim has written and acted in a lot of stuff and made a couple of shorts. He has comedy in his veins, being the son of actor Drew Forsythe, a fixture in the Wharf Revue and one of the nation’s great comic talents. (Those who saw Drew long ago in the great local musical The Venetian Twins should recall the moment forever when they were in the presence of greatness….but I digress).

Down Under is scripted to within an inch of its life. The comedy piles into scene after scene and descends into oral and visual crudity with a regularity that suggests the sort of mentality at work that might in a different era have caused a rivalry with Tim Burstall.

Damon Herriman (right) and moi at the FCCA Awards 2016
Where it does do well is in its casting. It is immeasurably aided by having Damon Herriman in the lead as the ‘pussywhipped’ Jason, the leader of the pack. Herriman plays a variation on his Dewey Crowe persona in the great series Justified. Dewey Crowe and Jason have the same trope – they are always feeling put upon and harassed, never quite in control. Bluster and resentment are the standard ways of reacting. Herriman is brilliant at it. As the picture makes clear, my admiration for Damon’s work knows no bounds. The rest of the cast are uniformly smart. Whoever looked after this bit of the production deserves a lot of the credit. 


How well is the film going to go? Hard to say. The film festivals have both given it prominent screenings a kickstart among the cognoscenti who might otherwise turn up their nose at the subject and its treatment. At its opening Friday night at the beloved local Randwick Ritz, just a little upmarket from the multiplexes, the film was shunted into the smallest cinema on the premises, the shoe box size #6, usually the venue for the movie that is moving out at the end of the week. It was barely half full, a couple of dozen punters at most. Maybe broad and vulgar Oz comedy with a social punch that far exceeds Stork  or Barry McKenzie is not quite what attracts crowds to the upmarket venues. Maybe its the multiplexes which will determine whether it strikes a box office chord. The B O report on Monday afternoon will tell that tale.

Update as of Tuesday 16th August. Down Under had a shocker opening weekend taking $43,000 on 24  screens. It didn't make the top twenty. For a more extensive analysis about the film's box office performance David Tiley has written this excellent post on his esteemed Screen Hub website

1 comment:

  1. It is a pity that a solid film like this is getting this kind of treatment. Forsythe has really threaded a needle here, and that's not easy to do. The key scene, as I told you, is the guest spot from David Field as the mercurial dealer. I feel sure it's a tribute to the Rahan Jackson scene in BOOGIE NIGHTS (Forsythe has confirmed this in interviews), but by placing it early in the film the director is saying all bets are off, the morality scale can't be trusted. And that pays dividends later. I recommend this film, as there's nothing else like it on the Aussie moviegoing landscape.

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