Letterbox This week
AUSTRALIAN films are not in danger of losing the benefit of the doubt. There are plenty of critics out there who feel it’s their patriotic duty to give local films a boost to help them on their way.
DVD Letterbox is not one of those critics. My experience contrasting the Australian film and television industries is instructive. Television treats its programs like fast-moving consumer goods. It makes them to be hits, then quickly moves on, lessons learned if they’re not. There’s no lingering resentments — well, not much usually — and not as much delusion in the TV industry as there is in film. Television networks and producers are in it to make a buck and, broadly, they’re expert at it.
The motivations for filmmakers are often less obvious. Of course, this is a generalisation, but filmmakers tend to make what they want to make and any audience they attract is a bonus. I’ll never forget one director pondering my question, one week before his film’s release, about what he expected his audience to feel about his film. ‘‘You know what,’’ he said after a long pause. ‘‘I haven’t even thought about the audience yet.’’ He has since moved into directing TV, quite competently.
Which is a long-winded means of saying our filmmakers should not be protected by soft, encouraging reviews. Nor should they be beholden to the expectation of a cinema release.
The industry is coddled enough by film festivals that bestow every film with some kind of award or validation. Filmmakers should be allowed to make mistakes but they won’t learn from them if they’re swelling with pride at soft reviews and an award from the Timbuktu Gen Y Film Festival.They should be allowed to go straight to DVD or download.
Which brings me to the Australian film DVDdownload release this week, Goddess. It opened earlier this year with flattering reviews and dire theatrical receipts. It deserved a bit better; not much better but a bit. Goddess (PG, Roadshow, 100min, $39.95), a musical based on Joanna Weinberg’s stage show about a mum stuck in a farmhouse and dreaming of finding her ‘‘voice’’, is not a bad film but it had the kind of thinly positive reviews that consumers see right through.
Mark Lamprell’s film also had the whiff attached to those films that sit on the shelf for a while. I think its distributor, Roadshow Films, may have lost its bottle with its middling musical pitched at 30-something mums who don’t have the time to go to the cinema. It’s a better DVD than cinema release.
Goddess has so much going for it. Laura Michelle Kelly is a vibrant lead and Ronan Keating is surprisingly credible opposite her. The Tasmanian and Sydney locations are beautifully shot (Sydney at night is stunning); the songs are witty if not quite Broadway material; the casting is nice (with YouTube star Natalie Tran popping up in the web-themed narrative); and the theme of modern life’s professional and personal stretch is on the money. While Goddess is not the full package, don’t let that put you off. With the diminished expectations of a DVD screening, it pops off the screen as a fluffy entertainment. Warner (170min, $39.95)
(M) Madman (238min, $29.95)
(M) Hopscotch (105min, $29.99)