When studying cinema was an easy task.
But after the 1960's every damn underdeveloped country had their own cinema movements, and suddenly there is a hell of a lot to study! Of course, it's wildly interesting too. Last week I watched a Senegalese bisexual version of Carmen, to mention something.
Tomorrow we are going to watch House of Flying Daggers (2004) in the context of Oceanian cinema, and since I thought that the director's previous effort Hero (2002) was visual mastery with a plot that was as fun as watching the grass grow in slow motion... well, it will probably be a nice morning.
Anyway. What I just came to think about while reading about films from Oceania, is that there is a hell of a lot of international cinema that most people have seen without probably thinking too much about it. Perhaps it's just my own interpretation, but it is almost like one expects all movies at the theaters to be Hollywood productions, since it's the standard. Therefore, I thought about writing some posts highlighting special "waves" of cinema from countries other than the USA, that have reached a great audience that not only consists of cinephiles. Well, a brief overview at least. Now: Australia and New Zealand.
Feel free to mention which of these films you have seen, and if I should have mentioned anyone in the context!
Australian cinema started to flourish in the late 1970's and early 1980's, and historical epics was a popular subject. What you might have seen in that category is a young Mel Gibson in the Word War I drama Gallipoli (1981). But wait, don't we need more Mel Gibson? Who can get tired of a drunken antisemitic Don Juan? Throw in the wildly popular futuristic action movies Mad Max (1978) and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981).
Historical depictions and hunk action: Gallipoli and Mad Max.
And then there was the Australian comedy. For some reasons, in the 1980's the world just went crazy for Australian humor. Along came Crocodile Dundee (1986), Muriel's Wedding (1994), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) and Babe (1995). The latter was however American financed since USA likes to fund already winning concepts (like Crocodile Dundee II).
Australian comedies: Crocodile Dundee, Muriel's Wedding, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Babe.
And when Australia could deliver films that were popular with the audience, along came more American financed films from Australia and with Australian directors. Australian actors that became popular and could enjoy a Hollywood career (often with either an American or British accent, though) are Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush and Naomi Watts (born in England, raised in Australia). To name a few. The violent drunkard Russell Crow is from New Zealand, see below.
Australian director Baz Luhrmann directed Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001). The animated family film Happy Feet (2006) is also a fairly new American-Australian co-production.
New Zealand, being a smaller country and often confused with Australia, had a much more modest success in the film industry. Jane Campion made the fantastically successful weepie The Piano (1993, and yes - I kind of almost cried a bit too). It was a USA-Australia-New Zealand (phuh!) co-production, with middle-aged-woman-fascination and New Zealand raised Sam Neill in the cast.
New Zealander Lee Tamahori made Once Were Warriors (1994) about Maoris, and at least I remember my mother's fascination with a VHS copy of it when I was little. The Swedish translation of the title was the more corny "The Soul of the Warrior". (Just a bit of useless trivia.)
Drama from New Zealand: The Piano and Once Were Warriors.
But then! Oh, but then. Then came the previously cool and original B-movie director Peter Jackson and pumped in money like the greatest of Arabic oil countries into the New Zealand film industry with his adaption of J.R.R Tolkien's complicated nonsense books The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). Suddenly New Zealand could finance films like never before, and Jackson built a state-of-the-art facility in Wellington where cool D stuff for films like Avatar (2009) could be made. (Well, I'm not into the specifics of the technology - blame me!)
After that cash wave came films like Whale Rider (2002) about a Maori girl, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2004) by a New Zealander. Then nobody heard about New Zealand ever after the latter beautiful film played the lovely tunes of the Andrew Sisters' "Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, Oh!".
See you next time with... some other part of the world in some era or another.
A screenshot from some Lord of the Ring film, the female protagonist of Whale Rider and a both beautiful and disturbing scene from the beautiful and disturbing Chronicles of Narnia.