DEATH IN BRUNSWICK
‘This movie really polarised the critics.‘ reﬂects Death In Brunswick writer/director John Ruane. ‘because we‘d have one review that called the movie a landmark in Australian cinema. while some other guy would be saying that we‘d singlehandedly put the Australian l film industry back ten years. To me ; that's fair enough. I reckon you should either love a movie or you should hate it. It's a sin to be in the middle. isn't it? That‘s just boring.‘ Chubby. cheerful and (to be honest) a bit scruffy. Ruane cuts an unlikely figure fora successful first-time filmmaker. but the fact that you'd easily mistake him for a plumber‘s mate is some indication as to why Death In Brunswick is as brilliantly funny a low-rent comedy as they come. Engagineg cast against type. Antipodean screen smoothie Sam Neill plays Carl. the hapless ‘cookic‘ in Melbourne's scuzzicst rock'n'roll dive. whose illicit romance with barmaid Sophie (Zoe Carides) is just the first element in a chain of fatal misadventures creating uproar amidst the city‘s shady Greek underworld. As Carl delivers up a dead body to his gravediggcr pal Dave (John Clarke). drives his ageing mum into a coma. and gets his revenge on the father ofall bouncers. Ruane’s winning blend of freewheeling dark humour and everyday ordinariness is redolent of a malicious Aussie Mike Leigh. but without the patronising attitudes. Having taken almost ten years to get this debut feature on the go. during which time he sold cameras. read scripts and shot a number of short films— including a documentary on the mating habits of cockroaches — Ruane admits now to having been worried about making a movie ‘without any socially redeeming features'. Ironically though. it’s precisely the film’s ramshackle morality and consequent
lack of any ‘improving‘ overview that
has endeared it to audiences on its
home turf. ‘People like the film because they
say it reﬂects Australia today. We're seeing characters on screen we haven‘t seen before. but they‘re people that we live with. Melbourne‘s the second largest Greek city in the world. yet you don‘t have any of those characters on Neighbours. and Australian movies haven't really reﬂected that presence either. In our film. some of them are good. some of them are bad. but at least they‘re in there.‘
According to Ruane. one of the pleasures ofshooting the movie was to watch a veteran like Sam Neill giving a helping hand to the various newcomers in the cast. for although some of the actors (leading lady Carides among them) had toured abroad to Edinburgh and elsewhere with Mike Leigh’s play Greek Tragedy. they hadn‘t been in front of a movie camera before. ‘ I was pretty surprised that he agreed to do it because he‘d just come off Hunt For Red October. but it gave him a chance to be sleazy and funny and he tells me it‘s become his personal favourite out ofall the movies he's done.
‘When I went to meet Sam at first. I took along a copy of Rolling Stone and showed him this picture ofa clapped-out Australian rocker who was about to make a comeback. He had the shades. the leather jacket. the bandana. all that stuff. and that‘s how I thought ofCarl. He wants to be like some ageing rock star. but basically he's 42 and he still hasn‘t worked out what to do with his life. Sam and I saw eye to eye on that. I don‘t know ifyou have an equivalent word in Scotland, but Carl's one of life‘s incompetents. a loveable dag.‘ (Trevor Johnston)
Death In Brunswick (15) (John Ruane. Australia, 1991) Sam Neill, Zoe Carides. John Clarke. 109 mins. From Sun 8: Glasgow Film Theatre.
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Death In Brunswick: ‘as billiantly lunn a low-rein comedy as they come'
Urga: ‘visually stunning’
Gombo, a nomadic shepherd, lives with his wile Pagma and their lamily deep in the steppes ol Mongolia. Despite their pastoral existence, at one with nature and unencumbered by 20th century trappings, modern lile does impinge — because the steppes are part at China, they are not supposed to have more than two children. Having already , had three, their lack ol contraception is j placing a strain on their relationship. When Sergie, a Russian guest-worker happens along, city-born Pagma persuades Gombo to take a ride into town to buy some condoms.
Grand, poetic, contemplative, 2 visually stunning and alien, Urga delies usual lilm criticism: all the f decent vocabulary has been purloined i by Hollywood. As the lilm opens, ' Gombo is chasing Pagma across the rolling steppe with his urga, a lasso on the end at a pole. A pastiche at some Dark Age knight, he appears to be entirely barbaric. By the lilm's end, he I
has become a hero. In between, Gombo is revealed to be sensitive, it sometimes brutal; a noble savage, who, with Ghengis Khan’s genes swimming in his blood, sticks up two lingers to ‘civilisalion’ and authority.
The real star at Urga is the steppe, spreading as wide as the sky. Mikhalkov has used stereo sound and the lull width at the screen to capture its essence and display its inlluence on the people who inhabit it; an lnlluence so deep that, during Gombo’s epic journey into town, our modern lile appears to be as shallow as the glimpse at the steppe he catches on a TV screen. This is a least: the lull cinema experience at its best. (Thom Dibden)
Urga (PG) (Nikita Mikhalkov, France/USSR, 1991) Badema, Bayaertu, Vladimir Gostukhin. 120 mins. From Sun 1 Mar: Glasgow Fllm Theatre.
The List 28 February— 12 March 199215