One man’s story

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch


Di­rec­tor: Rolf de Heer ( Ten Ca­noes) Stars: David Gulpilil, Luke Ford, Peter Dji­girr

THIS stark, af­fect­ing home­grown drama is a pas­sion project for long­time col­lab­o­ra­tors David Gulpilil and Rolf de Heer.

Not a sec­ond is spared for self- in­dul­gence. How­ever, there is an el­e­ment of self­p­reser­va­tion to the en­tire pro­duc­tion.

Par­tic­u­larly for the great Gulpilil, one of our na­tion’s most uniquely gifted ac­tors for more than four decades.

Dur­ing a trou­bled per­sonal pe­riod that saw Gulpilil end up be­hind bars, the dec­o­rated di­rec­tor de Heer ( The Tracker) per­suaded his friend to chan­nel his cre­ative en­er­gies into a story wor­thy of fi lm­ing. Gulpilil’s in­tense and in­trigu­ing re­sponse is

Char­lie’s Coun­try, a par­tially au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal yarn about an indige­nous man fac­ing a per­sonal cri­sis rel­a­tively late in life.

Char­lie ( Gulpilil) is get­ting on a bit, and the rules of life in a small out­back town are get­ting on his nerves.

The “bush black­fella” in Char­lie is call­ing him back to the land and Char­lie reck­ons he is ready for a re­turn to the ways he once knew.

Sadly, the roots Char­lie is look­ing to re­claim are much tougher to dig up than fi rst thought. Some of his old skills are still there, but due to fl uc­tu­at­ing health, Char­lie’s re­serves of re­silience are dan­ger­ously low.

As di­rec­tor, de Heer is care­ful not to al­ter the un­usual beats and enig­matic shifts in mood that defi ne Gulpilil as a sto­ry­teller.

In­deed, there are sev­eral stretches where Gulpilil is clearly call­ing the shots from in front of the cam­era, sim­ply by in­hab­it­ing Char­lie with a pure, per­sua­sive vigour.

Just as a wily sense of hu­mour can sud­denly come to the fore, so too can a feel­ing of wry res­ig­na­tion that Char­lie and his coun­try are liv­ing in worlds drift­ing wider apart.

There is no point in try­ing to fi nd the point where the real Gulpilil ends, and the char­ac­ter of Char­lie be­gins.

The ac­tor keeps shift­ing it as he pleases, of­ten as­ton­ish­ingly so ( a feat which re­cently landed Gulpilil a pres­ti­gious best ac­tor win at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val).

Now show­ing State Cin­ema

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