Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Australia, or How only Baz could make a film like this

Directed by Baz Luhrmann 
Written by Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Hardwood & Richard Flannagan
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandon Walters, David Wenham & David Gulpilil

How do you follow a threequel of sorts (Strickly Ballroom, william shakespeare's romeo+juliet and Moulin Rouge!) with a film so confident/ambitious you've named it after an entire country? Well, if you're Baz Luhrmann what you do is explode the 'epic movie', add a pinch of the theatricality that marked your earlier work, stylize it to extremes, enlist a great tech team, a couple of gifted Aussie thesps (and an unknown!) and you head to the outback to shoot Australia. Is the result an accomplished success like his 2001 Oscar-nominated musical wonder? Not particularly; but you have to give Baz & co. props for aiming so high with a project as expansive and unconquerable as the land it tries to portray.

What works:
- Nicole as Lady Sarah Ashley. To those who say that Ms Kidman has no range and little facial mobility I dare you watch her scene with Nullah as she explains the plot of The Wizard of Oz and not be moved (Kidman attempting to sing 'Over the Rainbow' is probably one of my favourite scenes in cinema this year)
- Hugh as the Drover. Need we say more?
- The cinematography. So gorgeous. It almost... almost made me think again about packing everything and going walkabout. But then, Y: The Last Man memories kicked in and well... we all know how that ended, right?
- Brandon Walters. Such a natural thesp... or maybe such a thesp because he's a natural.
- The costumes. Need I say that Kidman's dress is this year's green-library Keira gown for me? (Though Kate's Revolutionary Road's yellow city dress might tie for it)

What almost works
- The CGI backgrounds. Too painterly to be taken seriously and too realistic-looking to be taken George-Lucas-ey. 
- The length. A clip here and a clip there... though where? I still wonder.

There's plenty more to say about this film, but I think I need a couple of more views to be able to critically assess it. For now, let's just say it's a film I would recommend to anyone who loves film-making and who relishes the grandiose nature of The Baz. B+


Michael Parsons said...

So excited about this. You are the 3rd person to say not to listen to the critics!

Anonymous said...

I loved "Australia". I wish it had been two movies or some people said that it needed an intermission.

The cinematography is unprecedented. Remember that shot when Nullah was "invisible" in the waterand you see it from his perspective when a dead body in atop him. Genius.

Baz Luhrmann is a genius. Period.