Thursday 19 February 2015

Andrew Pike's Best Ever Australian Films

Andrew Pike is an Award-winning Producer, Director, Distributor, Historian and Scholar. He is the author of Australian Film 1900-1977 (with Ross Cooper), still the definitive volume recording Australia's cinema history for that period. Following some recent Film Alert items about the best ever Australian films  I asked Andrew for his list of the best. Here are his thoughts.

You've asked for my list of the "Best 10 or more" Australian films.

I am going to restrict my list to feature films made before 1977 - partly because I have fairly scrupulously seen most of what could be seen from this period during research for my book with Ross Cooper, but also because after 1977, I was so closely involved in the film industry as an exhibitor and a distributor, that to pick favourites would inevitably upset people whose films I might choose to omit from the list.  So, to be clear, I'm also excluding documentaries.

So, best 17, in no particular order:

ON OUR SELECTION (Raymond Longford)
THE KID STAKES (a film by one of the great colourful figures of the industry, Tal Ordell - Bulletin contributor, exuberant actor and wonderfully irreverent filmmaker)

THE CHEATERS (with its references to European cinema, revealing an extraordinary level of sophisticated film literacy on the part of the young filmmakers, the McDonagh sisters)
SONS OF MATTHEW (Charles Chauvel)

CAPTAIN THUNDERBOLT  (Cecil Holmes, basing my opinion on a longer version of the film than what remains today in the NFSA)
MIKE AND STEFANI (R Maslyn Williams)

BARRY MCKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN (Bruce Beresford, for its shameless, raucous vulgarity)
WAKE IN FRIGHT (Ted Kotcheff)
WALKABOUT (Nicholas Roeg)
27A (Esben Storm)
MAD DOG MORGAN (Phillippe Mora)
OUT OF IT (Ken Cameron)

Of the above, the two films by Harry Watt are currently attracting my attention.  In my view, Watt is vastly underrated.  His sheer competence as a director is evident in both, but both are also enhanced by his instincts as a documentarian.  Sydney and its people have rarely been filmed with as much verve as in PINCHGUT.  And in THE OVERLANDERS he not only "created" the Chips Rafferty persona that Chips built his career on, but he arguably contributed crucially to the broad post-war Australian psyche.  By way of self-serving anecdote, I vividly remember interviewing Harry Watt in London in 1979.  He was a very bitter and angry man, because of he way the new generation of the British film industry had ignored him.  In recent years when I started to do more work on THE OVERLANDERS, I regretted not having recorded the interview - but then, just before Christmas, I met a senior librarian from the National Library who said she had come across some tapes of mine and wanted to know if they could be made public.  She sent me a CD of the tapes, and it turns out that in fact I HAD recorded the interview with Watt after all:  I'd completely forgotten, and obviously had lost track the tapes.  It's a terrific interview, if I may say so, and convinces me that we need to know and learn from the work he did in England and Africa too.  I have a theory that WHERE NO VULTURES FLY which screened widely in USA, may well have served as inspiration for much of HATARI:  there are some striking similarities.

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