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Tell ‘im ‘e’s dreamin’!

December 29, 2008

Or, There’s No Place Like Home.

It’s big, and we finally saw the damn thing. Australia, that is.
Despite Our Germaine, despite The Honourable Peter Costello, BA, LLB, MP, despite a host of people telling us to the contrary, we actually went and saw and judged for ourselves. And lo, it was good!
No, it’s not a documentary, as some seem to have assumed, despite the factual existence of the place in the title.
It’s a rollicking story, sentimental, sympathetic, funny and fictional, though hung on a framework of historical events, in the same way as a zillion other WWII dramas, comedies and romances have been.
I honestly don’t know why there’s been such a white, middle-class backlash against this film (as it seems that there’s been, given at least the two reviewers above,) unless it can be said that they either feel vaguely guilty about being white and middle class, or they just don’t get it.
Baz is telling a meta-story, a story about telling stories, and the importance of telling stories, and the importance of growing up with stories to tell. He has fun with that notion in a filmic way, using the language of cinema, quoting from other big film stories, using broad strokes on a broad landscape, and generally being entertaining. The film is long, but it didn’t feel long – I was never bored. It’s blatantly emotionally manipulative, but that comes with the genre, and I didn’t feel it was cynically so.
I remember seeing Strictly Ballroom at the Sydney Film Festival when it came out, and the horror that surrounded it. It was as though Australians had never heard their own accent played back to them before – the Cringe was palpable! How could that terrible Mr Luhrman portray Australians like this, people were saying, and yet that film has entered the Australian cinematic canon, it has been taken to heart around the world, even in the Mother Country, Our Germaine’s adopted home, the UK TV classic Come Dancing has become Strictly Come Dancing!
Maybe it’s time the cringe was dropped, and it was accepted that if we tell Baz Luhrman he’s dreamin’, that might be a good thing. Even Australians have stories to tell.

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3 comments

  1. Good article. Thanks for that.


  2. Yes, spot on. I liked it also, as you no doubt read, and also must assume that the backlash (which is nowhere quite as strong as in the Australian media) is borne out of a need to decry anything that isn’t ‘worthy’.

    Which is ironic – the Australian press is so critical of the Oz film industry for navel-gazing and when a film arrives that shamelessly treads the boards they jump on it for being too commercial. Sheesh.

    I’m disappointed it didn’t fare better in the US box office, but the lesson that should be writ large to Australian filmmakers is that the film has attracted one of the largest Australian audiences of all time. In fact, Baz has created two of the most successful Australian films in the top five Australian box office draws – something that very few people have reported.



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