Let­ter­box This week

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

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)


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