Wednesday 7 September 2022

An Overlooked Australian Film (5) - David Heslin rediscovers TIME IN SUMMER (Ludwik Dutkiewicz, 1968, 64 minutes)

Anne (Christina O’Brien) and Shawn (Rory Hume) Time in Summer
 (Image courtesy of David Donaldson and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Until a few weeks ago Time in Summer might have been just another one of those obscure entries in Pike & Cooper's encyclopaedia Australian Film 1900-1977.  In that  very valuable volume (copies of which are still on sale from Ronin Films IF YOU CLICK HERE) Time in Summer is one of only three feature films made in Australia in 1968, the other two being two Japanese-produced films The Drifiting Avenger  made by the Toei Company and Blazing Continent  made by the Nikkatsu Corporation.  Things were at a low ebb though not quite the lowest. (That would have been 1967 the year of Pudding Thieves and of Journey out of Darkness. The latter distinguished itself by casting Kamahl as a blackfella and had Ed Devereaux doing a blackface turn as an Aboriginal tracker. )

Pike & Cooper were respectful enough to Time in Summer, its director Ludwik Dutkiewicz and its photographer Ian Davidson. They noted it had screened at the Berlin Film Festival and in Adelaide during the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. It was the last film Davidson and Dutkiewicz made together notwithstanding efforts to set up further productions.

Now, from all this obscurity Time in Summer  has been rescued by David Heslin in a long essay titled  "Mixed Up with Other People's Dreams"; The Tangled Webs of Time in Summer  written for Metro.  David has provided the text of his piece and below are the opening four paragraphs of a piece that runs for almost 5000 words. Metro is a magazine for purchasers or  subscribers so the rest of the article is behind a paywall....But if you are desperate to read the remainder of the article you can sign up IF YOU CLICK HERE I am advised it's free if you cancel after seven days (otherwise it’s $5 per month). You also get access to all the past issues of Metro uploaded too.

If you prefer to buy a copy you can do so IF YOU CLICK HERE


Ludwik Dutkiewicz

Midway through Time in Summer (Ludwik Dutkiewicz, 1968), a ballerina dances alone on stage to a thunderous classical piano piece. She is not one of the numerous women we have previously seen in the film, and even here is barely visible; we merely glimpse her figure within a flickering iris shot, which is superimposed over an image of trees reflected in rippling water. It is as if she has been transported from a silent movie, and in a different realm entirely from the male audience member whose attentive gaze we see in close-up. 

As he watches, the stage makes way for a forest, from whose branches emerge a ghostly, dark-haired woman in a black catsuit, extending her hands suggestively, gesturing at something beyond the screen. The performance ends and the man enthusiastically applauds; but as he claps, a shadow descends over his face, the applause fades out and the shot cuts enigmatically – even menacingly – to the auditorium’s concrete exterior. 

This unsettling sequence, complete with its eerie, white-noise-imbued soundscape, would not be out of place in a cinematic masterwork like Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961), Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966) or Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001). Yet it belongs instead to a long-forgotten Australian film of the late 1960s, an ill-fitting entry within a national cinema that has rarely had use for the oneiric or the aggressively surreal.

Of course, when Time in Summer emerged in 1968 – screening to packed-out sessions at the Adelaide Festival of Arts before landing a berth at the Berlin Film Festival{{Time in Summer was screened as part of a strand showcasing work from less cinematically established nations, known as Filmschau der Länder, or Film Show of the Countries. It appears that the only impediment to the film being selected for the official competition was the lateness of its submission: in a letter to executive producer Bryan Glennon on 7 June 1968, festival director Alfred Bauer stated that the selection committee ‘was very much impressed by the film and considers it a very fine production’ but were unable to include it in the competition ‘because the completed print had arrived a little late’. He nonetheless encouraged Glennon to submit the film in the sidebar and invited him, Dutkiewicz and the three main cast members to attend the festival (only O’Brien and Glennon ended up making the trip). Alfred Bauer, letter to Bryan Glennon, 7 June 1968.}} – there was little national cinema here to speak of. 


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