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Arkell's Ark: Australia

Columnist Ian Arkell was a million miles short of being impressed by Baz Luhrman's film, Australia.

Is Baz Luhrman’s Australia, one of the worst films ever made? I flicked onto a Slovenian black and white one a while ago on SBS that followed the last days of two druggies working out a suicide pact. That may have edged out Australia. But only just.

After a bit of background about how her husband has been killed in Australia, Nicole Kidman (Lady something or other) heads off to Oz with the stereotypical 100 items of baggage to meet with the manager of her late husband’s property, a guy called Drover. Of course the introduction to Drover had to be via a blokey fight scene in a pub. That was an innovative way of demonstrating how handy Hughie is in a punch-up. I wonder if Steven Segal or Chucky Norris ever thought of starting a movie that way? I thought for maybe a micro second that the thing would pick up. So I waited.

Later, Hughie Jackman (Drover), Nicole and an assortment of characters are travelling out to the property on this old truck loaded to the rafters. The shot shows them travelling on a boulder strewn road, way out in the middle of nowhere, when out of the blue an old aboriginal flame of Drover's starts jogging alongside the truck. Yeah that really rang true.

Then Nicole drops one of her many less than brilliant lines as a mob of kangaroos runs alongside the truck. She says something like, “what lovely animals” and just gets it out as someone shoots one of the roos and a second later the bloody remains are dumped onto the windscreen. Can’t work out the symbolism there. The guys on the top of the truck obviously dropped the roo, jumped off the truck and caught up with the truck in the space of two or three seconds. Yeah, that’d work.

On the first night, Drover who obviously keeps up his membership of the 1930s Darwin equivalent of Gym City, decides to wash himself with a bucket of water. So with the bucket at full stretch, all the pecs, abs start falling over each other to be seen. Oh, I thought, maybe it’s a skin flick. But things got worse.


We’re introduced to the evil cattle baron (Bryan Brown) who starts lusting after Nicole and also to Bryan Brown’s henchman, who seems to have a particular skill at both catching large blowflies and tying a piece of thread round their necks before strangling them. Maybe this bloke is as tough as Hughie, just more comfortable with blowflies than in a bar room fight. Horses for courses I guess.


We’re also told early on that it was the Blowfly Whisperer who had speared Nicole’s poor late husband. So it was a reasonable expectation that he’d end up speared as well. And there’s the chaotic scene later when the place is being bombed and evacuated and there’s sick and dying, smoke, the whole thing. Nicole and Hugh are taking forever to say goodbye and there’s a truck full of sick and injured waiting to get out of the joint. It’s the last truck out and the officer is yelling at Nicole to make it quick as the truck can’t wait etc. etc. Shades of a Casablanca farewell? Shades of lots of cinematic goodbyes I’d reckon. That’s the thing of it. So much of this comes across as a compilation of other movies, with a clutch of clichés and stereotypes tossed in for good measure. I really can’t work out if it was a serious film, a comedy, a send up or, as I suspect, a dud.


Gee’s there’s so much other stuff that really sucks in this movie. Cattle stampedes that are miraculously halted at the edge of a precipice by some young Aboriginal guy with mystical powers, cruel police officers who…well who cares? I read some comments by Baz that everybody was out to get him or wanted to kill him or words to that effect. I don’t wonder.

I was thinking of watching Australia again to see if I was being unfair. But they’re running the original uncut version of that Slovenian film about the druggies descending into madness. Ok it’s in Slovenian and for some reason the subtitles are in Arabic. But it still looks like more fun. At least no-one’s trying to strangle blowflies.

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For further quality reading turn to Ian's novel Who Your Mates Are http://ianarkell.wordpress.com/

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