Reel and imag­i­nary set­tings

Aus­tralian movie lo­ca­tions can be de­cep­tive

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Australia - DIANA SIM­MONDS

STAND­ING on the cor­ner at Walk Don’t Walk (a Lily Tom­lin line), I looked at the street sign to check our where­abouts and nearly fainted.

I was in New York City and about to be ‘‘cross­ing De­lancey’’.

It’s not that the 1988 ro­man­tic com­edy of that name is such a great movie (and to any­one not be­sot­ted by Hol­ly­wood, the ti­tle is mean­ing­less) but for me it was a magic mo­ment, as I ac­tu­ally did cross De­lancey Street.

It’s in the mid­dle of lower Man­hat­tan (the Bow­ery, Lit­tle Italy and so on), a cityscape that can’t help but con­jure up The God­fa­ther and its se­quels plus Moon­struck, West Side Story, Com­ing to Amer­ica and many more.

Now, thanks to An­thony Roberts’s new book Reel Lo­ca­tions ( sub­ti­tled The Ultimate Travel Guide to Aussie Films), we can do the same down un­der.

Haven’t you al­ways longed to visit Por­poise Spit? Not only be­cause it’s the set­ting for Muriel’s Wed­ding but be­cause it’s such a hi­lar­i­ously plau­si­ble Aus­tralian place name. Ac­cord­ing to Reel Lo­ca­tions, it’s ac­tu­ally an amal­gam of Gold Coast lo­cales, plus in­te­ri­ors shot in a Syd­ney stu­dio. Which may be a crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment, or sim­ply con­fus­ing, for the starry-eyed lo­ca­tion hunter. That’s the thing about movie set­tings. Some years ago, a Sin­ga­porean tele­vi­sion soapie crew flew in to shoot typ­i­cal Aussie lo­ca­tions. The hero and hero­ine started out in the ho­tel at Syd­ney’s Star City Casino, then hopped in a con­vert­ible to es­cape the vil­lain. (He had a sharp blond crew cut, sig­nalling vil­lain sta­tus be­cause he was ac­tu­ally a Chinese ac­tor.)

They headed across the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge and, in one minute and via the Three Sis­ters in the Blue Moun­tains, were at the gates of our home in the Hunter Val­ley. As any Aus­tralian knows, that’s a five-hour drive, but no mat­ter.

The happy cou­ple then had a pil­low fight in a bed­room of our typ­i­cal older-style Aus­tralian farm­house. Did this ac­tiv­ity sig­nify some­thing else? Who knows. Look­ing sus­pi­ciously re­laxed, they am­bled out­side to the typ­i­cally Aus­tralian glo­ri­ous view (that bit’s real). The hero­ine — ac­tu­ally a for­mer Miss Hong Kong, exquisitely beau­ti­ful and re­ally nice — then served her beau a typ­i­cally Aus­tralian snack.

The gi­gan­tic mud crab weighed al­most as much as our for­mer Miss Hong Kong and she strug­gled with the plat­ter on which it skid­ded about.

When a gift copy of the episode ar­rived months later, we were en­thralled by the speed and pic­turesque­ness of the jour­ney from Syd­ney, through the Blue Moun­tains, to the Hunter, and ap­palled to no­tice how badly the bed­room win­dowsill needed paint­ing.

But in terms of lo­ca­tion it ob­vi­ously rep­re­sented typ­i­cal rus­tic Aus­tralia, be­cause the peel­ing paint was in sharp fo­cus as the young cou­ple were pil­low­fight­ing within.

Ac­cord­ing to Roberts, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was filmed in sim­i­lar fash­ion to the Sin­ga­porean mob’s idea of Aus­tralia: bits of glo­ri­ous out­back of­ten 1000km apart. So al­though it would be fun to do the drag queens’ epiphany mo­ment — all plat­form boots and os­trich feath­ers — on the moun­tain top, in re­al­ity you’d be some­where along a two-hour cir­cuit of Kings Canyon and mak­ing it to Bro­ken Hill that night would be a chal­lenge.

Some lo­ca­tions beg to be avoid- ed, how­ever. The beau­ti­ful but creepy mur­der mys­tery Jind­abyne, for ex­am­ple, prob­a­bly hasn’t done much for that NSW town’s visi­tor num­bers, even though it re­ally was shot on lo­ca­tion.

On the other hand, a pic­nic at Hang­ing Rock is al­ways pop­u­lar and the movie of that name is screened there ev­ery Valen­tine’s Day; but any­thing sou­venired from the Vic­to­rian beauty spot is said to bring bad luck.

And al­though Babe was filmed on lo­ca­tion in Robert­son, NSW, you won’t find Magda Szuban­ski’s farm — or any­thing else of note, for that mat­ter. Reel Lo­ca­tions – The Ultimate Travel Guide to Aussie Films by An­thony Roberts (Hardie Grant, $32.95).

‘Mid­wife’ Rasha Sky­bey with a flat­back turtle lay­ing eggs

Jind­abyne is one Aus­tralian movie shot in its gen­uine set­ting

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